On their toes

Addul Manzano and Anna Gerberich of North Carolina Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Jeff Cravotta.

Dancers, musicians fuel each other in tonight’s performance

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

North Carolina Dance Theatre in residence with Chautauqua Dance will perform its first seasonal collaboration with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

From waltzes and polkas to a soft pas de deux, the evening will be less about the stories behind the pieces and more about the musicians and dancers fueling one another.

“There’s nothing like not knowing what the music will bring,” said Master Teacher Patricia McBride.

The show will open with Mark Diamond’s La Fille Mal Gardée, featuring two of the NCDT’s younger dancers. Diamond, associate artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, said this classic pas de deux is soft, with some comedic elements as well.

“This is much more delicate and playful and a little more casual,” he said.

“La Fille Mal Gardée” means “the badly guarded girl.” It’s an 18th-century ballet with a story; however, Diamond opted to leave out the story and focus on the dance, he said.

George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, a pas de deux, will follow Diamond’s piece. McBride staged this ballet, which she herself performed many times.

“It’s exuberant,” she said. “People tend to take it very lightly when they see it, but it’s quite difficult.”

Balanchine created this work in 1958. It’s an illustration of his love for America, McBride said. The woman is the Liberty Bell, and the man is “El Capitan.”

NCDT members Anna Gerberich and Pete Walker will perform this piece for the first time. McBride said it’s very technically challenging for a dancer, but every couple can bring something new to it.

Gerberich and Walker bring chemistry, McBride said.

Following Stars and Stripes will be Diamond’s dance set to Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro,” a Chautauqua favorite since it premiered here in 2006.

Diamond said the piece is set in a Latin American village on a warm day. As the men take their siesta around the stage, the women attempt to revive them.

“The thing that’s interesting about this music is that it’s one theme played over and over again by different instruments in the orchestra,” Diamond said. “It just gets built more and more until it becomes very intense.”

The evening will end with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s “July’s Delight.” Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, collaborated with Guest Conductor Grant Cooper to fuse Johann Strauss Jr. waltzes, polkas and marches. The piece requires many dancers to match the fullness of the music, Bonnefoux said, so he’s using company members, apprentices and festival dancers.

“July’s Delight” is a bit backwards in that it begins with a very strong, energetic march, much like a finale, and finishes a bit more wistfully.

“I’m really curious to know how the audience will react to that because it’s the end of the evening, and it’s just dreamy instead of really strong music,” Bonnefoux said.

Bonnefoux approached Cooper with the idea of creating this dance last summer. Cooper shortened each piece and linked them so the music could flow more naturally.

This kind of collaboration is crucial to dancers, Bonnefoux said.

Because of its size, NCDT does not get to perform with an orchestra on a regular basis. Bonnefoux said he always enjoys working with the musicians and certainly with Cooper.

“Grant is really interested in doing pieces that are good for the dancers,” he said.

And live music changes things. It creates a deeper connection for the dancer.

“The orchestra is there to sustain you,” Bonnefoux said, adding that the audience is already a source of energy for a dancer, but live music creates an even more stimulating atmosphere. It creates energy and, most of all, inspiration.

It’s the perfect environment for a dancer to lose him or herself to the piece, and Bonnefoux said it’s up to the dancer from there.

“If you cannot get lost in a dance, then you are not a good dancer,” he said.

Chautauqua Dance Circle will host a pre-performance lecture at 7 p.m. tonight in the Hall of Philosophy. Bonnefoux and Diamond will speak briefly on tonight’s performance.