Dallas — The Dance Class. Dancers in Blue. Ballet Dancers on the Stage. The Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer. If any of these sound familiar it’s because they are the names of some of the most popular works by the French artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) or better known as the painter of dancing girls due to his fascination with ballet master Jules Perrot (1810-1892) and his students.
Regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, Degas liked to paint the realities of the world using bright colors, concentrating primarily on the effects of light to express to viewers their visual experience in that moment. With almost half his work focused on dancers, Degas was able to capture the height of the Romantic ballet period, which included the creations of La Sylphide (1832) and Giselle (1841) before these types of ballets became almost non-existent in Paris following the 1848 Revolution.
Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet (DNCB) will be performing excerpts from both these iconic ballets as well as the Vase de la Poupée variation from Coppélia (1870) and a restaging of Jules Perrot’s Pas de Quatre (1845) for the Dallas Museum of Art’s (DMA) Dancing with Degas event, presented by the Richard R. Brettell Lecture Series. In addition to the performance ticket holders also get a special viewing of Ballet Dancers on the Stage, one of seven Degas works owned by the DMA, and get to hear more about Degas and his works with Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Curator Line Clausen Pedersen.
This is not the first time DNCB has colloabrated with the DMA on a project. Back in 2015 the dance company performed Le Train Bleu at the DMA, which tied in with both their Picasso and Coco Chanel exhibits. DNCB Artistic Director Emilie Skinner says since then she has stayed in contact with the DMA Adult Education department and was thrilled to receive an invite from Jessie Carrillo, DMA Manager of Adult Programming, to perform as part of their Degas Exhibit this Thursday.
“With our Horror Series having just ended and the holidays about to begin, it was the perfect time to add something new in before starting rehearsals for Cosmic Fiction,” Skinner says. “We were able to set all the Dancing with Degas pieces before the New Year and have been perfecting them ever since.”
And as far as what DNCB hopes to gain from being part of this event Skinner replies, “Working with the DMA further exposes DNCB to the arts community and helps us strengthen the link between the dance world and the visual arts world. It expands our audience and gives us an opportunity to perform, which is of course the goal of any dance troupe.”
The link Skinner refers to is one of the main reasons she decided to start DNCB back in 2011. The other half of this is she also wanted to create collaborative concerts that emphasize neo-classic ballet to the local community. Over the last seven years DNCB has accomplished these goals with memorable productions such as Kaguya Hime, Futurisme à Pied, Cosmic Fiction and the group’s annual Horror Series; all of which included the talents of other local choreographers, musicians, film makers and artists.
“I believe that DNCB is key in offering visuals artists and musicians new opportunities to perform and exhibit their work. Many of the artists who work with us have never even thought of incorporating what they do into a ballet production and it’s exciting to see them get excited about thinking outside the box and going outside their comfort level,” she says. “We also shine a new light on ballerina culture. While we love dressing up in tutus and sparkly crowns, our dancers really shine when they are dressing up like unicorns, sculpting their hair into Mohawks or having a bucket of fake blood poured over them on Halloween night. I’ve been quoted saying that we do ‘the weird stuff’ and it’s completely true. We make ballets for the freaks and geeks of the world and we love every minute of it.”
DNCB is also big on fostering relationships with other local arts organizations. In addition to the DMA, DNCB also has ongoing partnerships with Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts Division of Music and the Dallas Public Library. When asked why making these types of connections are so important Skinner says, “Without these partnerships I don’t believe we would be where we are at today. I owe a lot to these groups for providing us with performance venues, unique new projects and the opportunity to perform with a live ensemble. These types of partnerships also serve as a link to the community; exposing DNCB to new audiences and in turn exposing new audiences to classical ballet.”
She continues, “Part of our vision as an arts organization is to reach people who would not typically attend a ballet performance. We have been largely successful in doing this partly in thanks to these collaborative efforts.”
While DNCB has a total of 16 dancers at its deposal, only six will be performing at this event. They are as followed: Principal Dancer Erin Boone in Giselle Act I variation; Principal Dancer Lea Zablocki in La Sylphide Act II variation; Soloist Hannah Rae Kleimeyer and company member Javier Hernandez in Vase de la Poupée variation from Coppélia; and Boone, Zablocki and First Soloists Whitney Hart and Diana Crowder in Perrot’s Pas de Quarte.
Out of the four, Perrot’s Pas de Quarte is probably the least well known. Created in 1845 by esteemed ballet master Jules Perrot’s, Pas de Quartet brought together the four greatest prima ballerinas of the Romantic era, which included Lucile Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Marie Taglioni. In DNCB’s version, which was restaged by students of Nathalie Krassovska, founder of Dallas’s Krassovska Ballet Jeunesse, Boone appears as Grahn, Zablocki as Grisi, Hart as Cerrito and Crowder as Taglioni.
When it came time to choose the four dancers Skinner says the decision was easy. “I chose our four top dancers: Principals Boone and Zablocki and First Soloists Crowder and Hart. The original cast had the dancers performing according to age, starting with the youngest ballerina Lucile Grahn and ending with the eldest Marie Taglioni. I did not follow this same pattern and instead, assigned the dancers to the role that best suited them according to their particular area of strength. For example, Ms. Boone is a powerhouse jumper so she was assigned Grahn’s solo which ends with 30 entrechat quatres!”
> Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com