TITAS just keeps rolling out the hits with its dance offerings this season. And the company they’re bringing in this month is the icing on the cake.
Maybe you’ve heard of them. They were the stars of a hit reality show on the CW, Breaking Pointe. They helped usher in a new wave of ballet lovers. They pretty much made ballet cool again. That company is Ballet West, and they will make their debut appearance in Dallas May 29-30 at the Winspear Opera House.
Their program has something for everyone, too, with works from George Balanchine, William Forsythe and Jodie Gates. Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15, set to music by Mozart, is one of the most structurally unusual pieces from the choreographer. It showcases five principal women and three men, with an ensemble of eight women, and some very challenging and intricate choreography. Moving from Balanchine’s classicism, the company then presents Forsythe’s modern ballet, In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated. Originally created for the Paris Opera Ballet, it examines themes and variations in the strictest sense. Be prepared for a more academic but nonetheless beautifully danced piece, and a treat for those of us who enjoy puzzle-like games. Ballet West will end with a contemporary piece that promises to be unpredictable, clever, lively and quick: Gate’s Mercurial Landscapes takes the introductory term and personifies it.
I spoke with Artistic Director Adam Sklute as the company gears up to travel from the company’s home town, Salt Lake City, to Dallas next week.
This your first time coming to Dallas, are you excited?
ASVery much so! It’s been a great experience so far working with TITAS. In fact, we selected the pieces we are bringing in collaboration with Charles [Santos, executive director of TITAS]. He was helpful and specific in what he wanted us to bring because who would know this audience better than he? He helped us pick pieces that would show off the company to its best potential, and I’m really looking forward to the show.
What can we expect from you all?
ASA very diverse show. We’re bringing three different ballets that touch on three different approaches to the genre. There’s a classical piece [Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15], a modern ballet [Forsythe’s In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated], and a really evocative work [Gates’ Mercurial Landscapes] — a combination that I hope is an exciting experience. We tried to put together a sampling of work that shows how stimulating ballet can be.
And of course, I have to ask the question you’re probably tired of answering, but I’m curious. What was the impact of Breaking Pointe for Ballet West?
AS(chuckling) I never mind answering this. It was so successful for us. I mean, it was huge for the company and I’m really glad we did it. It increased the name recognition of Ballet West, absolutely, but more than that, it put a greater face on the art form in general. I get asked if we did it only for Ballet West, for the people who know us and the people who already loved ballet. But we didn’t. We did it for the millions of people who don’t know about dance, and who haven’t had the chance yet to experience it. The TV show changed that for so many people, and I’m proud that we could be a part of it. I think they [TV dance shows] have given ballet, and dance, a face they have never had before, and they help people relate to dance in a new way. And that is very, very good.
Photo: Erik Ostling
Would you do another season?
ASWho knows? Maybe we might do it again. It was a tough couple of years (laughing) — having all those cameras around. But who knows? I never say never.
You, yourself, started dancing at a relatively “older” age for a dancer, at 17. What inspired you to start?
ASIt was actually a girlfriend who got me into dance. She took me to my first ballet class and I feel in love immediately. It incorporated everything I loved—music, athletics, art—and it all just clicked. I was never really good at playing music or playing sports, but with dance, I could combine it all, and I was actually good at it.
ASWhen I was 17 and a half, I told my parents I was going to become a professional dancer. They weren’t that supportive — not of the studying dance — but they didn’t think it was a reasonable expectation of mine to think that overnight I was going to become a professional. But I’m pretty headstrong and I moved myself to New York and by 19, I was dancing professionally.
That was with the Joffrey Ballet.
ASYes, that is where I began my career and I was there for 23 years. Thirteen years as a dancer, and then 10 years in a more administrative role.
What prompted you to pursue that type of an arts career?
ASIt happened organically. When the Joffrey moved from New York to Chicago, they asked me to take on more administrative work, ballet master, etc., and it made sense to me. It was the route I wanted to go and I learned a lot.
You learned the ropes.
ASDefinitely. All that time I spent with the Joffrey really prepared me for Ballet West. I moved there in March 2007 and it’s been an incredible and unbelievable experience. Ballet West is my home. This company is remarkable and I feel really blessed to help and watch this company grow.
What do you see in the future for Ballet West?
ASWell, we’ve moved into our new space, we’re expanding the school, and we’re touring more than ever. The sky’s the limit with this company. I can’t wait see what’s next!
Ballet West on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30 at 8 p.m. at the Winspear Opera House.