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."

On February 25, 2014 at 7:00pm at the Princeton Public Library, ARB will present "Behind the Music of the Ballets Russes: American Repertory Ballet talks Diaghilev, Debussy, and Stravinsky with Music Scholar Simon Morrison." This special pre-performance insights lecture is free and open to the public and will take place in the library's Community Room on the first floor. Through discussion between ARB Artistic Director Douglas Martin and foremost music scholar and Princeton University Professor Simon Morrison, "Behind the Music of the Ballets Russes" will provide a special insight into the music of some of the most iconic ballets premiered by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, including those that have been re-imagined by Martin and Kirk Peterson.

On March 15, 2014, ARB will celebrate its annual gala - the organization's signature fundraising event. This year, it is the Diamond Gala, celebrating the diamond anniversary - 60 years - of the organization (est. 1954). The evening will begin with a 6:00pm performance at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, followed by a reception at 7:00pm, at the Heldrich Hotel, located across the street. The performance will feature dancing by the professional company, students of Princeton Ballet School, and DANCE POWER Scholars. This range of performers represents all branches of the organization - the professional company, the school, and the organization's Access & Enrichment department. The Diamond Gala honorees are Covance and Lee and Joseph Herring, for their outstanding support of ARB's Nutcracker, and Princeton Ballet School faculty member Janell Byrne. Contact Director of Development Naomi Levecchia for details and sponsorship opportunities: nlevecchia@arballet.org; 732-249-1254 x25.

The weekend following the gala, ARB will present Signature Duets: Dances of Daring and Devotion at Union County Performing Arts Center's Hamilton Stage on March 21, 2014 at 7:00pm and March 22, 2014 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. In his review of ARB's Fall 2013 repertory program at Hamilton Stage, Patrick Kennedy of Broadway World praised the company's dancing and the mixed-bill programming: "Performed at New Jersey's own Hamilton Stage-a small but sophisticated theatrical space-the ARB's new offerings are neatly fitted to a scaled-down format. Small format, but broad emotional resonance. For the most part, these are dances that give off reassuring warmth, let you get comfortable-then, when you least expect it, burst into fantastic heat and light."

Signature Duets: Dances of Daring and Devotion will feature a world premiere by Trinette Singleton, former premier dancer of the Joffrey Ballet and choreographer of ARB repertory favorite Capriccios, ARB Resident Choreographer Mary Barton's Fantasy Baroque, and Gerald Arpino's Confetti. Marina Kennedy of Broadway World reviewed the premiere of Barton's Fantasy Baroque this past fall, characterizing it as "light and lovely" and "fresh and fanciful." Robert Johnson praised ARB's original performance of Confetti, writing, "Trying to resist 'Confetti's' charms ultimately proves futile. The dancers' courage is exhilarating, and Arpino, its under-appreciated choreographer, wins a belated round of applause."

On May 2, 2014, ARB will perform Our Town at 8:00pm at the Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, NJ. Set to the majestic music of Aaron Copland, Our Town is a ballet by Philip Jerry based on Thornton Wilder's classic play - a tale of love, loss and modern life. Jennifer Dunning for The New York Times says that the ballet "remains faithful to its source while translating it into vivid impressionistic physical terms."

The following evening, on May 3, 2014 at 7:00pm, American Repertory Ballet will join Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, CLeo Mack Dance Project, tap dancer Maurice chestnut, dancer Timothy Kochka, and dance artist Claire Porter on stage at New Jersey Performing Arts Center as part of the Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance. This annual performance festival brings together the best of the Garden State's diverse dance companies. This May 3 performance is the second installment of a two-part showcase featuring excerpts from works that span the globe and dance genres. ARB will perform an excerpt from Douglas Martin's Rite of Spring.

"I am looking forward to this spring season full of new works, new venues, and repertory favorites," Martin says. "We have built such a strong roster of rotating repertoire including Arpino works, full-length ballets, and we are continuing on that strong path. I am really looking forward to seeing the dancers sink their teeth into Romeo and Juliet once more before we dive into the very ambitious Ballet Russes program at McCarter, and beyond. This is a very fertile time for the company. I'm eager to see the fruits of our labor on the stage."