American Repertory Ballet Announces Spring 2014 Season

American Repertory Ballet Announces Spring 2014 Season

American Repertory Ballet will present revivals and world premieres at venues across the state - from Mahwah to Princeton - February through May, 2014. The spring season features two performances of Artistic Director Douglas Martin's acclaimed Romeo and Juliet, the world premiere of Douglas Martin's Firebird and the company premiere of Kirk Peterson's Afternoon of a Faun at McCarter Theatre, a world premiere choreographed by former Joffrey Ballet star Trinette Singleton, and American Repertory Ballet's Diamond Gala - celebrating 60 years since the founding of the organization in 1954.

ARB's spring season opens with two performances of Douglas Martin's full-length Romeo and Juliet, which premiered to a full house at State Theatre in October 2013. The first performance is February 22, 2014 at 8:00pm at the Berrie Center for the Performing and Visual Arts at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ. The second is March 8, 2014 at 8:00pm at The Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, NJ.

Based on Shakespeare's tragic story, and set to Prokofiev's passionate score, the ballet features a company of 30 dancers, beautiful sets, and stunning costumes. Martin's Romeo and Juliet was recently named one of The Star-Ledger dance critic Robert Johnson's "Top Ten in Dance" for 2013. Johnson called the October premiere a "watershed" mark in ARB's history. He said that the ballet "moved seamlessly from one episode to the next, hitting all the passionate high-notes in Prokofiev's score. Though simply decorated, the production never failed to create a sense of place; and Martin's handling of the boisterous crowd scenes - making the company appear larger than its actual size - revealed his canny professionalism."

Jerry Hochman writes in CriticalDance Magazine that Martin's Romeo and Juliet is "a small miracle: a choreographic rendering of the story that is both simply-told and compelling, that inspires [the] dancers to, and beyond, whatever technical limitations they may have, and that moves an audience that already knows the story just by what it sees on stage." He also characterizes the production as "ambitious," "emotionally and artistically fulfilling," "exuberant and exciting to watch," and "invit[ing] comparisons to other well-known productions,...including...that of Sir Kenneth MacMillan." Marina Kennedy of Broadway World calls the production "an outstanding example of dance being perfectly adapted to dramatic interpretation, with the ARB dancers in full command of their art."

On March 12, 2014, ARB will present the world premiere of Douglas Martin's Firebird, set to Stravinsky's score, at 7:30pm at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. This ballet will share the program with Martin's Rite of Spring, also set to music by Stravinsky, and Kirk Peterson's Afternoon of a Faun, set to Debussy's score. All of these ballets are inspired by the 20th-century works of Sergei Diaghilev's revolutionary Ballets Russes. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

As Tony Angarano, dance critic for The Courant who reviewEd Hartford Ballet's premiere of the work, Peterson's Afternoon of a Faun "retains its setting of a Grecian idyll, but the characters, a faun that is half-human/half-beast and a flirtatious nymph, interact with more tender innocence than Nijinsky's originals, which caused a scandal at the 1912 premiere in Paris with their eroticism." He goes on to say, "Peterson's movements seem like the natural expression of Debussy's heated music....a re-interpretation [with] stunning impact."

Martin's Rite of Spring transports the original libretto of Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps - a story based on pagan ritual and sacrifice - to a competitive 1960's office environment. In response to its spring 2013 premiere, Robert Johnson described the work as, "Part sentimental tribute and part screwball comedy" which "avoids primitivist clichés and, in gender parity...manages to find a concept still radical enough to make audiences squirm."As Hochman says of Martin's Rite, "MR. Martin's choreography fills the stage...The steps...are to this viewer an indescribable potpourri that work together because they fit both MR. Martin's concept and the Stravinsky score...a tribute to MR. Martin's choreographic ability."

Just as Martin infused Rite of Spring with a feminist statement, he layers a gender twist onto the classic Firebird libretto. In his version of this classic Russian folk tale, the namesake character will be portrayed by a male rather than a female dancer. Martin will tell the original story with new choreography and set design.

"It is a great challenge for any arts organizations to present original works," says Martin. "I am committed to keeping great 20th century work alive by both continuing to perform those great works and by creating new versions and new takes on those themes. These Diaghilev-era ballets opened the west to eastern pageantry and lore. They introduced western audiences to the artist that would go on to define art in the 20th century. Exploring that history and expounding upon it is essential to the identity and personality of my work."