Before she gets to the ball, Cinderella will be coming to a library or bookstore near you!
We’ve got a fantastic lineup of workshops from Wakefield to Providence, all of them completely free and open to the public. Each workshop will include a reading of a Cinderella storybook, an interactive group dance, and a small craft that children can take home to remember the magical event. We hope to see you there!
Peace Dale: Thursday May 11, 10:30am – Peace Dale Library (1057 Kingstown Rd., Peace Dale RI 02879)
Special thanks to our outreach team led by Valerie Cookson-Botto and to the libraries and bookstores for helping make these workshops possible. Don’t forget to get your tickets for Cinderella, May 12-14, 2017 at The Vets!
Boyko Dossev is a man of many talents. You may have seen him on stage as Romeo in Romeo & Juliet last February. This time he’s taking on the role of choreographer, one he has had a few times previously creating charming ballets like Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood, and Little Red Riding Hood. We sat down with Boyko to get all the inside scoop on his newest creation for FBP’s chatterBOXtheatre series, The Little Prince.
Hello Mr. Choreographer! The story of The Little Prince is special to many people. What was it that drew you personally to this story?
I’ve always wanted to choreograph a ballet based on Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince. This is one of those stories that carry wisdom in just a few pages. It continues to inspire children and adults all over the world. It is symbolic, sad, poetic and at the same time full of hope. The Little Prince reminds us what is truly important in times of great challenge. The journey of The Little Prince is one that we all are having and I wanted through my interpretation of the book, once again, to remind adults about the kids they once were and to help kids to never forget what it’s like to be a child.
That’s beautiful- but also complex. What are some of the challenges in telling this story? What are some of the rewarding aspects?
The main challenge when you are telling a story like this through choreography is translating the incredible words of wisdom and then communicating these messages without compromising their meaning and integrity. It is challenging to create a ballet that can convey Exupéry’s main idea through movement, while also allowing children and adults have a wonderful time. This is the main challenge, to communicate the spirit of the book successfully in less than 35 minutes.
That is a daunting task! But we are so lucky to have incredible music to help us tell the story. Can you tell us a bit about where the music for this ballet came from?
I am very lucky to have a very dear friend, Geneviève Leclair, who connected me with the French-Canadian composer Maxime Goulet. His music is perfect for this project and although it was not written especially for The Little Prince, every single note seems to be as if we have collaborated for years to create the perfect score for my choreography. Maxime is remarkably talented composer and I feel extremely honored and grateful that he agreed to work with me on this ballet.
Do you have any favorite aspects of the ballet so far?
My all-time favorite part will always be the process of creation and collaboration with the dancers. I wish we could have more time in the studios to explore and see where and how far we can take the story of The Little Prince.
I love that. As you mentioned earlier, this story has been around for quite some time. Can you tell us a bit about what makes your interpretation of The Little Prince unique?
I think what makes this interpretation of The Little Prince special is the way dancers tell Exupéry’s story through their own sensitivity and experiences. I can create the steps and different effects to try to tell the story, but is the dancers who bring their characters to life and make them real. This is what will tell the story in a unique and exciting way.
Another interesting thing about this version of The Little Prince is that you’ve decided to use multimedia in the show, including video and audio collaboration. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Everything started with one of the company dancers, Jacob Hoover, creating an origami elephant out of scrap paper during in his free time during a break at the studio. In fact, he created few of them and this inspired me very much. I envisioned how we could create an animation, like when I was a kid, without the help of all the Hollywood type of technology. I wanted it to be very basic but at the same time captivating to the imagination.
I asked Jacob to create a bigger elephant, a snake, a rose, a fox…I wanted them all. At this time of the development process, I asked another company dancer, Ty Parmenter, to come on board and help us film. I wanted to have a stop-motion video of the paper elephant and a boa constrictor swallowing the elephant to represent the beginning of the story. To my surprise, both Ty and Jacob didn’t think I was crazy and agreed to work with me!
Thanks to company dancer Eugenia Zinoveva’s boyfriend, Jon Gourlay’s help we were able to get a green screen and start to experiment. All of this led to the idea to have Jacob’s mother, Michele Gutlove, (also a phenomenal glass artist) create some sketches of The Little Prince and integrate them into the media. She made some fantastic images, her work as an artist is so inspiring.
Here is a gallery of some of Michele’s watercolors:
But we didn’t stop there…
My colleague and good friend Viktor Plotnikov, whose Carmen is opening the same weekend as The Little Prince, helped me with the sets, which became an integral part of the entire multimedia project. At the end, we recorded some narration as well, done by Ms. Valerie Tutson. Ms. Tutson’s voice and artistry added another dimension and sensitivity to the ballet.
Finally, Misha called up Barnaby Evans, creator of Providence’s acclaimed WaterFire installation. His iconic star lanterns were the perfect “cherry on top” of the vibrant scenery and imagery.
Wow, so it was a collaborative effort! The dancers, staff, and community at FBP are so multi-talented.
I feel very fortunate to have all these recourses available to create The Little Prince. Misha’s support, guidance, and trust in every step I made were essential. I feel very lucky to collaborate with all these amazing artists and dancers. I am very excited to see all of the elements of The Little Prince come together. A story as complex as The Little Prince is hard to interpret in the theater. I needed to do something that would help me tell the story right, something that would add to the choreography in a way that could transmit to our youngest audience the beauty, the wisdom, and the sensitivity of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.
Thank you so much, Boyko!
The Little Prince concludes next weekend, but it’s almost completely sold out. Call 401-353-1129 to be added to a stand-by waiting list.
When you’re an actor, there are many, many great plays and then there is Shakespeare. The rich, poetic verse, the twisting plots, the masterful characterization and fathomless psychological depth makes the Bard’s work stand out in the wonderfully diverse history of the theater.
That’s why the last few months have been such an adventure for me, both as an artist and a lover of Shakespeare. I have been working alongside choreographer Ilya Kozadayev and the dancers of Festival Ballet to bring to life a brand new adaptation of Romeo & Juliet which pays homage to both the spirit and the text of Shakespeare’s most famous story.
The idea came from Misha Djuric, who wanted to bring actors into the production, speaking live on stage, to become part of the story. The result is a multisensory experience blending movement, music, and words. It is truly remarkable.
I enlisted two wonderful actors Jeanine Kane and Richard Noble, both experienced Shakespeareans and familiar faces in the local theater scene. Throughout the course of the ballet each of them play multiple roles, from the Chorus (narrators) to Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse. Weaving in and out of the action for much of the ballet, they bring the music of Shakespeare’s verse to bear on Prokofiev’s gorgeous, powerful score. In one powerful tableau, Jeanine delivers Lady Capulet’s impassioned plea for vengeance as the raw agony of a kinsman’s death consumes her. It is a stunning, breathtaking, synthesis of three languages, Shakespeare’s words, Prokofiev’s music, and Kozadayev’s transcendent choreography.
The greatest gift of Shakespeare is, of course, the poetic verse that flows through his tangled stories, showing us the true power and beauty of the English language. When performed live, Shakespeare is a delicious combination of phrasing and melody; his words do not just sing, they also dance.
I can’t wait for you to experience this beautiful new work of dance and theater. It truly is a remarkable accomplishment and I feel humbled and privileged to have helped bring it to life. Don’t miss it!
Romeo & Juliet! One of the great ballets of our time and one of the most iconic stories in all of literature.
When you’re a dancer there’s something special about performing Romeo & Juliet. The sword fighting, the passion and romance, and, yes, the death and despair, combine to tell a story that is unlike anything else in the canon of classical ballet. I performed this ballet many times and every time you step on stage, a fresh sense of energy washes over you.
With my performing career (mostly) behind me, I have the privilege to approach this ballet as a choreographer and director, bringing this complex and tragic story to life with a new perspective. Misha Djuric approached me almost a year ago with a creative vision for a new, collaborative production of Romeo & Juliet. He wanted to bring actors into the production to be part of the story and to perform Shakespeare’s magnificent text live.
I was immediately intrigued.
Misha connected me with a lion in the local theater scene: Tony Estrella, artistic director of the Gamm Theatre, whose experience with Shakespeare is downright impressive. It has been a fascinating process for both of us working on this project, learning from each other, and bringing this story to life.
This ballet is hard. The pas de deux scenes are long and passionate, overflowing with power and romance. The fight scenes are a complex balance of swordsmanship and showmanship. But ultimately storytelling and characterization are the most important challenges and I enjoy tackling them. The characters are complex and deep, each flawed in their own ways. Bringing that out in the dancers in an authentic way has been one of the great privileges of working on this new ballet.
I hope you will join us Valentine’s Day Weekend February 10-12 for an evening of passion, romance, and Shakespeare! I am sure you will agree this ballet is a powerful retelling of a truly iconic story.
See you at the theater!
P.S. Check out my interview for the FBP Series “Locker Room Talk” below!
As Outreach Coordinator, I connect schools and the community with the art of ballet and bring it into places where it would be almost nonexistent otherwise. I can’t think of another job that would give me more satisfaction.
I work with artists and educators to spread the work of FBP and the power of dance into the community, as well as bring young audience members to see a ballet for the first time. In 2016 we brought over 3,000 students to main-stage ballet performances, presented lecture demonstrations to 1185 students and engaged 368 children at local libraries.
Nutcracker season is by far our busiest time of year, even though we have programs running year-round. The annual Nutcracker performance in December is accompanied by a wide variety of outreach events. We are able to connect with literacy standards in the school and community library story hours. As a classical ballet, The Nutcracker opens discussions about pointe shoes, tutus, pantomime, pas de deux, to name a few.
Our Library Workshops reach some of the youngest and neediest students in Rhode Island. For many children, this is the first time they get a chance to turn movement into storytelling and see ballet dancers. As we pass around pointe shoes for the children to touch and FBP ballerinas appear in their tutus en pointe, the wonder in their eyes fill us all with joy.
We also hit the road to visit schools, preparing students for their field trip to see The Nutcracker. For many of these students, this field trip is often their first time in a grand theater and their first time to see a ballet. While presenting a lecture demonstration at a kindergarten in Central Falls, one of the students gasps and called out, “Wow. I have never seen a real ballerina before. She is beautiful!” As we capture the attention and imagination of the students, we also teach them about theater etiquette and the history of ballet. We connect the performance they are going to see with their academic work in the classroom.
Ultimately, the most exciting outreach event is the actual performance at PPAC, where you can feel the energy from the moment the kids arrive. I have the privilege of seeing the excitement as they come off the bus and watch children’s faces come alive and their eyes widen as they experience the breathtaking size and ornate embellishments of the theater. When the students take their seats and the curtain goes up, these students are engaged for two hours in the magic of the ballet.
Their letters back to the company tell us that they are watching, listening, and relating to what they see on stage. They tell us that they are amazed a ballet can tell a whole story without any words and that dance can express emotion. They are inspired by the athleticism of the dancers and special theatrical effects of the production.
Every encounter I have with young audience members reinforces the importance of what our outreach does for the community. There is a need for dance in our schools, and school students need to experience the performing arts at the highest level.
Many years ago our FBP’s Artistic Director, Mihailo Djuric said to me that kids are the hardest audience to perform for because they are so honest. If you aren’t performing at a high level, they will become disinterested and let you know. If you are keeping them engaged, you know you are doing well. By the responses we receive from our young audience members, I think we are making quite an impact.
At each of Festival Ballet Providence’s performances patrons are given a copy of the season’s Playbill, a beautiful, glossy overview of the company, and its Thirty-Ninth 2016-2017 Season. The booklet contains information audiences would expect to find in a Playbill: a welcome message from the artistic director, Misha Djuric, details about the company’s history, biographies of the dancers, and information about other parts of the organization.
But the images in this year’s edition are anything but expected, starting with its arresting cover photo–a beautiful image of a dancer, who seems to be in rehearsal, her foot en pointe and her arm arced as it moves around her body, her skirt in motion swooping around her. This photograph and others throughout the program are the work of Shawn Guo, a junior at RISD, who participated in an ongoing partnership between FBP and RISD, a photography workshop, “Photo/Graphic,” taught by Franz Werner, a professor at RISD for more than 30 years.
Professor Werner approached FBP 2 years ago, believing that photographing dancers would be a wonderful for inexperienced photography students to experiment and learn new ways to observe. “I thought it would be exciting for the students to see professional dancers and to use their cameras to explore the world of ballet.” He added that this idea was well calculated. “It’s truly profound the way that this program stimulates all kinds of creative interpretation, Shawn’s work being a good example.”
Shawn was impressed by watching the way the dancers rehearsed. “I tried to be subtle and not disturb the dancers, and I was aware of a little uneasiness they may have been feeling.” He took some head shots to find an angle that would be interesting, and then began to experiment with long exposures and motion photography. During the class, students walk around the studio, sit on the floor, or stand on the sidelines.
Shawn said that the figures in the photographs themselves express the motion and energy of the dancers. “I didn’t want color to take away the energy and dynamic aspect the figures carried when they were moving, jumping, etc.”
“At the end of the session,” said Shawn, “I processed the photos and really liked the way they turned out.” He assembled them into a portfolio of the best work from the class and presented it to Misha and Dylan Giles, FBP’s marketing director. Dylan and Misha immediately understood the artistic quality and thought they would be a wonderful way to illustrate this season’s Playbill.
An unanticipated benefit of participating in this workshop was that Shawn appreciated how hard the dancers work and how physical and mentally demanding their job is. “I was so impressed by how they have to constantly train, going over and over routines over again, trying to get to absolute perfection.” He said he could relate their practicing to his own work and how he tries to do the best he can do.
For many of the students, this was their first exposure to ballet. Shawn, however, had an inside-look at the San Francisco Ballet this past summer, where a family friend has been a guest choreographer for 40 years. Shawn said, “Overall I am really happy I took the class and where it led, in terms of the work I produced. It was a great experience.”
Shawn Guo is a Graphic Design major at RISD, class of 2018. shawnguo.com
One of the works being presented during Up Close on Hope this November is by award-winning choreographer Ty Parmenter, who is also a company dancer. This will be the fourth piece he has created for our Up Close on Hope series.
This work is most unique – a collaboration between Ty and local storyteller Valerie Tutson. Valerie has been entertaining and performing in schools for more than 25 years and is the founder of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers Association and the Funda Fest, a local storytelling festival. The choreography is set to Valerie’s rendition of an African folk tale of How We Got the Stars.
Ty said, “This collaboration began when Misha asked me if I’d be interested in working with text.” He continued, “I had been thinking about using narrative in my work, and thought it would be a great opportunity to work with a storyteller. Previously I had created a work using dialogue from an old movie and poem my sister had written, so I was all ears to hear what Valerie and I could do together.”
Valerie was thrilled to be working on this project with Ty. “I usually work alone, so I was excited about the opportunity to work with another artist. And this is great.”
Ty and Valerie met to listen to her recording of the story. She said, “I saw Ty’s brain go clickity-clickity-click.” She added, “I can’t wait to see what Ty is going to do with it, whether he’ll have a direct response to the story or an interpretation.”
Ty was also thrilled. He said, “It’s a beautiful story with lovely underlying themes about lightness and darkness, and there’s a wonderful line where Valerie says there’s always light on the other side.” Ty added, “Valerie’s recording is stunning – she has a phenomenal way of speaking.”
When asked about the process of creating a ballet set to text, Ty said, “Overall, the beginning process of choreographing to music or text is very much the same. I’m discovering that in the later stages of creating, the text wants you to be more intentional.” He continued, “With music, there are demands but with text, there’s only one way to interpret those words. On the other hand, as a choreographer, I try not to rely solely on the narrative, but to let the audience bring their own sensibilities to what they’re seeing.” Ty added, “This balancing act is quite a challenge, that’s what’s great about it.”
Explaining how the piece has been unfolding, Ty said that in the early stages of rehearsal, he didn’t play the story for the dancers. “I told them what they’re in for, that there would be no music.” Gradually, he started to introduce the words and elements of the text on top of the dancing so that the dancers could find their own connections.
The four dancers in the piece will perform to the recording with the exception of a special night when Valerie will perform the story live. Ty added, ‘It will be great for the dancers to perform to the recording, but also it will be great when Valerie is there live – her presence will add a whole other element. Who knows, she may not perform the story exactly the way she recorded it.”
Boyko Dossev, who has previously choreographed for FBP, is joining the resident company as a dancer and choreographer this season. We sat down with Boyko to learn a bit about his background, artistic philosophy, and more…
Hello Boyko! Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us a little about your training?
I completed my training at the National Ballet School in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was very fortunate to be taught by an artist that was the embodiment of the Renaissance man. As a dancer, he was the prince. As a teacher, he is the living encyclopedia of ballet. My training is based on the Vaganova method, but in my dancing, I have been influenced by the French method as well. This is largely because at the age of 17, I left Bulgaria to dance in France. After that, I danced in Germany as well.
You’re quite the globetrotter! What was your transition into your professional career like?
My transition into the professional career was quite a shock to me. I was 17, completed two years of training in just one year at school and was getting ready to join Le Jeune Ballet de France in Paris, France. This company was one of the most prestigious ballet companies for young dancers in the world at the time and I was very fortunate to be chosen to join it. The shock came on multiple levels. First it was cultural. Moving and adjusting to Paris was not simple. Although it is the most beautiful city in the world, I had difficulties integrating there. Then came the professional shock. This was the first time that I had to really fight for my roles and not just expect them because I was hard working and talented. Also, coming from a Vaganova school, where everything is much slower, it was really hard to adjust to the fast and bravura French technique. Nevertheless, this experience was important because I was exposed to new , style, dance, and choreography and it was when I started to grow as an artist.
It sounds like you’ve learned how to adapt to new settings quite well. So what has it been like coming from Boston Ballet to our much smaller company at FBP?
There are no small stages and no small companies. Yes, when talking about the physical size there are differences, but these are differences based on resources and not integrity, quality, innovation, or abilities. The audience is the same. The work is the same. Our goal is always to be the best we can be and to enrich our audience and our communities. These days, the competition is stronger than ever. Everywhere there are great dancers and great companies- doesn’t matter the size. What I love about FBP, though, is that as a smaller company it has the potential to grow big. It has the energy and the artistic integrity to further develop the art and dance scenes in Rhode Island and to become an influential, innovative art institution not only in New England, but in the States as well.
And we are so happy to have dancers like you to bring all of your artistic influence to Providence and help us grow. How has dancing in all of these different environments affected you as an artist?
Yes, I am very fortunate to be influenced by so many cultures. As a child I grew up in Mozambique, Africa. That’s where everything started for me as a dancer and a choreographer. Later on, the Russian, French, German, and American cultures played a big role in my formation. Living in places like Paris, Dresden, Hamburg, Boston and D.C helped me see how small the world has become, especially the ballet world. I feel so fortunate and very grateful for this gift. One thing that I want to say here though, is that even gifts come at a certain price. The price I need to pay for this incredible gift is that I am far from all my close friends and that I miss them all very much.
The sacrifices we make for ballet! Certain works that speak to us make it all worthwhile, though. Can you recall any moments like this in your career so far?
Although I consider all my roles and experiences in ballet a highlight I think the true one is always the next one. Despite this, I feel very fortunate to have worked closely with John Neumeier, who has become my mentor as a leader and a choreographer.
For me everything starts with the music. I think that the music is the base on which we can build upon. Use it as a guideline, reference, and an important medium through which we can communicate more than what the movement sometimes can. I also love the creative process and working with the dancers to explore new possibilities and true collaboration. I believe strongly in work that is based on partnership. I like to challenge my dancers and I like when they challenge me. It is only when we have a partnership and we become open to ideas that WE can truly innovate.
What a lovely and logical approach! Let’s talk education. You have a degree in Communications from Northeastern. Juggling a professional ballet career with schoolwork is extremely demanding. Why was this so important to you?
I think there are two main reasons. The first is that my studies there opened a new perspective on how I see the world around me, our art form and particularly its future. I feel, in the ballet world we are still stuck in the past century when it comes to organizational culture, communication, and structure.Ballet needs to evolve, we need to evolve with it as well. The second reason this degree was so important to me is because I found something else that I’m very passionate about, something that inspires me to be a better human being, leader, dancer, teacher, and choreographer: this is the art of communication, and it is also what we do as dancers.
Very true. So when you’re not dancing, what are you doing?
When I’m not dancing, I’m teaching and choreographing. Also, I love spending time reading, listening to music, being with family and friends and making my dreams come true. There are so many things to do and so little time!
Thank you so much, Boyko!
Catch one of FBP’s newest dancers, Boyko Dossev, onstage this fall. Tickets and more information here.
The FBP company is preparing for its first Up Close on Hope program of the season, which will feature Allegro Brillante, one of the most popular works by George Balanchine, one of the single most influential figures in the history of ballet. Elyse Borne, former soloist with New York City Ballet and current répétiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, is responsible for staging the ballet for FBP. Company Dancer Kirsten Evans caught up with Elyse to get insights into Allegro, Balanchine, and more…
Hello! Let’s just dive in: What makes Allegro Brillante different from other Balanchine ballets? Why is it special?
Allegro is not exactly different but incorporates the speed, clarity, technical difficulty, musicality, and neoclassical style so closely identified with Balanchine.
Your schedule is so busy! You’re always traveling somewhere new to set another ballet. Where else have you staged Allegro in the past?
I have actually staged Allegro for FBP before! I’ve also done it in San Francisco, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Singapore etc…..
That’s right, this wasn’t your first visit to Providence. What was your experience like working with the dancers of FBP this time around?
I had a great time with your dancers. They learned the choreography at breakneck speed and expressed a real interest in executing the ballet correctly.
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If you could describe Allegro Brillante in 3 words, what would they be?
I would describe Allegro as fun, gut-buster, and energized!
What is your favorite part of the staging process?
I love walking into a studio where no one knows the steps and seeing it all come to life in just a few hours.
After retiring from NYCB, you were ballet mistress at Miami City Ballet for eight years and then San Fransisco Ballet for six. You’ve been in the ballet world for your entire career, but now staging ballets, you have such a unique job. How did you become a répétiteur?
I always had a propensity for learning quickly so this was a natural inclination. I gained a lot of knowledge being a ballet mistress and still face challenges with relish when I have to learn a ballet I’ve never staged. I feel honored and privileged to be allowed to stage Balanchine and Robbins.
What is it about the Balanchine style that you enjoy so much?
I think I must have grown up with Balanchine style in my blood. It is so natural for me. Dancing at NYCB was a dream come true.
You premiered in The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov. What was that like? Do you have any favorite memories of working with Mr. Balanchine or at NYCB?
My scariest and favorite experience at NYCB was doing the Sugar Plum Fairy with Baryshnikov. Alone everyday for 5 days in a studio with the 2 of them, Balanchine and Misha. Awestruck and nervous and excited all at once. My memories go on and on. I think I will have to write a book! I was so lucky to work with such a genius.
…and WE would love to read your book. Thank you, Elyse!