UA dancers prepare for 'big ringer show'
School to bring one of the year's most anticipated shows to campus on Thursday
A pas de deux, a ballet designed for two people, is known as one of the most complex and rigorous dance variations, requiring consistent precision and an expert attention to detail. It’s a feat not easily performed — and one that the UA School of Dance is set to take on in its two-week production of Premium Blend, beginning Thursday.
Dance senior Max Foster will perform the intricate George Balanchine pas de deux, “Tarantella,” opposite dance partner Diane Diamond, a dance junior. The piece is a classical ballet in which two Italian peasants are forced to dance for their lives after being bitten by a tarantula. The movements are technical, fast-paced and include flashy jumps and exciting movements, Foster said.
“These characters have been bitten by a tarantula, and the way to get all of the venom out is to dance it all out,” Foster said, “so they’re just on stage flying around, turning around, dancing as big and as fast as possible.”
The dance program was granted permission from The George Balanchine Trust to perform the piece, an honor not granted to many schools.
“Our program has done quite a number of Balanchine repertory over the last decade, and we’re really blessed to have a good relationship with the Balanchine Trust,” UA dance professor Melissa Lowe said. “Not a lot of college dance programs have the chops to be able to do [Balanchine’s] work. … If they think you’re not up to the state of it, they’ll tell you no.”
In addition to “Tarantella,” Premium Blend will feature jazz, tap, modern and ballet pieces showcasing the school’s diverse talent. The performance is meant to display the wide variety of expertise the dance program has in all styles of dance, Lowe said.
“We’re one of the really premier dance ensembles in the college sector on a national scale,” Lowe said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find anything that would rival what we do.”
The series is the school’s foremost performance of the season and will allow audiences to see the blend of disciplines offered through the dance program.
“It’s the big ringer show because it tends to be premier works by faculty, guest artists — and some of our other concerts are a little more experimental in nature,” Lowe said. “This is really the best of the best, hence the name Premium Blend.”
The closing number for Premium Blend, originally choreographed by renowned American choreographer Larry Keigwin, is a modern piece called “Megalopolis.” The piece was first performed by the UA dance program last April and was brought to the dancers by UA dance alumna Emily Schoen after being originally choreographed for The Juilliard School. The piece will feature music from several artists, including M.I.A., and is set for a cast of 15 dancers, said Amy Ernst, an associate professor of dance and rehearsal director for “Megalopolis.”
“I enjoy the freedom it gives the dancers to be themselves; there’s several improvisational moments in it,” Ernst said. “I’m really excited to see their virtuosity within a movement vocabulary. They’re really amazing in this piece.”
Premium Blend begins Thursday and continues with performances through Nov. 3.
Follow Jessica Schrecker @JKSchrecker