By Diane Claytor

Diablo Ballet’s spectacular 23rd season comes to an end with it’s final performance at Walnut Creek’s Del Valle Theatre May 5-6. And like all the shows before, this Celebrated Masters program promises to be filled with both classical and contemporary repertoires, incredible artistry, gracefulness and simply beautiful dancing. As Bryn Namavari of criticaldance.org wrote following a recent performance, Diablo Ballet’s “Artistic director Lauren Jonas continues to curate programs with the impetus that everyone can ‘experience the power of dance’ – even those, she asserts, who do not think they like ballet….Her artistic sensibilities are at the core of Diablo’s continuing success. The company proves over and over that their dancers and programs are world-class.”

Celebrated Masters features the playful duet from Gustav’s Rooster by master dance maker Val Caniparoli; the exquisite Trey McIntyre piece, The Blue Boy; and Fault Line, another collaborative and thought-provoking world premiere choreographed by Diablo Ballet’s Robert Dekkers. Here are some interesting facts about all three upcoming works:

The Blue Boy

 Born in Wichita, Kansas, Trey McIntyre, who has created more than 100 original dance pieces over the past 25 years, has been called one of the world’s most innovative choreographers. Trained at the North Carolina School of Arts and Houston Ballet Academy, Trey was appointed Choreographic Apprentice to the Houston Ballet in 1989, a position created especially for him. Trey admits he was ready to quit dancing when he first joined the Houston Ballet Academy, but once there, he learned to dance

The Blue Boy Photo: Aris Bernales

from his “joy and sense of artistry” and he experienced a “renewed excitement from their summer choreographic program.

“Dance is physically spectacular,” Trey, a United States Artist Fellow and recipient of numerous awards, recently wrote on his blog. “It connects us with our own wild spirit and inner heroic…An original partnering move that seems to come from out of nowhere wakes up our childlike creativity and belief in magic.”

Trey premiered The Blue Boy in 2007 for his dance company, the Trey McIntyre Project (TMP), with one reviewer at the time noting that “musicality and craft are…hallmarks” of the piece, “along with McIntyre’s acute visual sense…the choreography becomes a visualization of Beethoven’s sensuous melodies.” The piece is Trey’s homage to the 18th century Gainsborough portrait, The Blue Boy, and is set to the rhapsodic second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concert No. 1 from that era.

It is one of Lauren’s “most beloved ballets,” she said. “The way Trey uses the Beethoven score and infuses his incredible musicality to enhance his classical and contemporary feel is heaven.” First performed by Diablo Ballet in 2013, the Huffington Post called The Blue Boy a “delicate, neoclassical” piece, different from many of Trey’s other more athletic works.

Four years ago, it was announced that TMP would expand its artistic vision and focus on not only dance, but film, photography and writing. Since then, Trey has become a renowned photographer, with photos featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Sunset Magazine. He was also commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service to create a series of photographs commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and he is currently working on a photography book.

Gustav’s Rooster

It’s been many years since Lauren first met Val Caniparoli, now one of the most sought after American choreographers. “I was 16 years old, dancing at Marin Ballet and Val was choreographing there,” she remembers fondly. A year later, Val created a new work on Marin Ballet and Lauren had a solo. Lauren’s been a fan ever since!

Photo: Marin IJ

“Val’s work is so rewarding to dance and it really challenges the dancers,” Lauren notes. “I’m so appreciative of him and his wonderful generosity in allowing Diablo Ballet to perform his works. He’s a master dance maker and I’m thrilled that our audience and dancers get to experience his ballets.”

Born in Washington State, Val studied music and theater at Washington State University. He joined the San Francisco Ballet in 1973 and has been dancing with them ever since; he also continues to occasionally create works for the company, as well as for many others. He is the recipient of numerous choreography grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as many awards for both his dancing and choreography. According to Wikipedia, Val’s work has been described as ‘rooted in classicism but influenced by all forms of movement: modern dance, ethnic dance, social dance and even ice skating.”

A fan of all types of musical compositions, Val has become known for his use of widely diverse music as a foundation for his choreographic work. His Gustav’s Rooster, created in 2003 for the Tulsa Ballet and being performed now by Diablo Ballet for the second time, is a prime example of this.

Seeing a KT Nelson dance using a Swedish rock tune – and loving the music – Val began researching Swedish music, purchasing a myriad of CDs. But he kept returning to the music heard in the KT Nelson piece, written by Hoven Droven, a Swedish folk band that specializes in instrumental hard rock arrangements of old Swedish folk tunes. He created a ballet to the music and, after reading that the album was dedicated to the pet rooster of Gustav, one of Hoven Droven’s band members, decided to name the piece Gustav’s Rooster. “Only it was all a joke,” Val explains. “I sent a DVD of the ballet to the band. They loved it but laughingly told me that while they thought it was great, it was also very funny. Gustav apparently never had a pet rooster. Which actually makes me like the title even more,” he continues. “I love the fact that it’s based on a joke.”

Gustav’s Rooster Photo: Ashraf 

Performed by the Milwaukee Ballet in 2009, a reviewer called Gustav’s Rooster “wonderfully witty, structurally brilliant and endlessly inventive.” The San Jose Mercury News, in 2011, said it was “a deliriously playful piece…”

Robert Dekkers’ Fault Line

Robert Dekkers takes a lot of time before naming a piece. “I’ve learned from experience that sometimes naming a work before it’s fully developed can cause some confusion for me,” Diablo Ballet’s Resident Choreographer explained. He’s occasionally changed the name of a piece once it’s finished, so has learned “it’s just easier to wait.” So he did. He waited until he had the perfect name for his piece premiering at this year’s final performance: Fault Line.

Diablo Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Robert Dekkers

As of this posting, Fault Line is definitely close to being finished, but Robert, known by all who work with him as a master collaborator, rarely finalizes a piece without the input of his dancers. “Collaboration is at the core of my creative vision,” he explains. “It’s really hard for me, as a choreographer, to build material without the dancers.” He talks with them, gets their ideas and asks them to create movement phrases, which he then puts together to form a base phrase of movement. From there, he uses the base to create duos, trios. “It’s almost like painting, drawing in pencil first and then letting the colors in to shape the final product,” Robert said. “This also allows the dancers to feel more connected to a piece.

“I wanted to go into creating this without too many preconceived notions, which is fun but also can be somewhat frightening,” he continued. “I’ve definitely had a few moments of thinking that I need to figure out the storyline and narrative. But then I figure no, I need to fight that urge and focus on building a lot of material.”

He’s working with Dennis Aman, a local composer who is, Robert states, “like a mad scientist of music. He constructs a lot of his own instruments (once using a go-cart that was modified into an instrument) and really thinks outside the box when composing. His generous personality makes him an ideal collaborator.” The music will be played live by The Living Earth Show, a guitar and percussion duo.

“Dennis’ music for this piece has different sounds than many of his other compositions,” Robert said. “It has a lot of texture and elements that even by his standards, are non-traditional. That’s really complementing the ideas and materials I’ve been developing. We’re looking at a work where we’re almost creating our own fictitious world based very heavily on reality.”

Robert noted that he and Dennis have been discussing books, poetry and things that are on their minds as they collaborate on this piece. They’ve been talking about topics currently being covered in today’s world, specifically about ‘the other,’ that fear of not understanding someone and realizing it’s just a lack of experience with whatever ‘the other’ may be. “We’ve also discussed that feeling of being invisible, of going through life without ever really being seen,” Robert stated. “I’m interested in exploring that and possibly using it as an inspiration.”

Robert’s works were recently described by The Huffington Post as “often cerebral, cutting-edge creations – works that never seem to tread the same ground twice.” Named “25 to Watch” by DANCE Magazine several years ago, his works are always greatly anticipated and highly acclaimed. There’s no doubt that Fault Line, which will be danced by the full Diablo Ballet company, will be equally praised.

If you’ve already gotten your tickets for 23rd season finale, we look forward to seeing you there. If not, don’t wait another minute! Go to https://lesherartscenter.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=661 or call 925-943-7469.

 

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