A stage for two

Sasha Janes and Rebecca Carmazzi. Photo courtesy of Jeff Cravotta.

North Carolina Dance Theatre to perform ‘An Evening of Pas de Deux’

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

A pas de deux can take several shapes: abstract to definite, high-energy to soft or contemporary to timeless.

All of these elements will appear on stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater for “An Evening of Pas de Deux.” North Carolina Dance Theatre in residence with Chautauqua Dance will perform eight ballets, each a pas de deux or a ballet choreographed for two dancers.

The performance will begin with “Satto,” staged by Sasha Janes, rehearsal director and guest choreographer. Salvatore Aiello, a former artistic director at NCDT, choreographed this piece in 1983. The partnering in “Satto,” or “Wind Dance,” is meant to be between the wind and a leaf.

Following “Satto” will be George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.” Master Teacher Patricia McBride is staging this piece, which dancers Alessandra Ball and Addul Manzano performed at a gala in New York City this past spring.

Balanchine created the popular work in 1960. McBride described it as one of the most beautiful ballets, with strong elements of femininity.

“It’s fresh,” McBride said. “It looks like it could have been choreographed yesterday.”

The music was originally intended for the Black Swan pas de deux in “Swan Lake.”

But the 10-minute piece is full of freedom and elegant lines, McBride said. It follows the usual form of a pas de deux, with the partnering, the male solo, the female solo and the coda.

“The Spill,” with choreography by Dwight Rhoden, will follow the Balanchine ballet. NCDT Member Traci Gilchrest is staging this pas de deux, which she said is meant to represent the animals affected by the recent oil spill.

“I think it’s really effective,” she said of the abstract dance.

Rhoden, artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York City and resident choreographer for NCDT, had his dancers rehearse the piece in their socks to get the feeling of a slick floor, Gilchrest said.

The company will perform a longer version later in the season.

Janes will then perform his piece “Lascia la Spina, Cogli la Rosa” (Leave the Thorn, Pluck the Rose) with his wife and NCDT member, Rebecca Carmazzi. Janes said his pas de deux premiered here in 2006 and is the first piece he choreographed.

Carmazzi represents a rose. She blossoms and grows as Janes, representing death, accompanies her.

“It’s just that whole concept of life from start to finish,” he said.

Janes said the music inspired him. It’s a George Frederic Handel song, with Italian opera singer Cecilia Bartoli singing the aria.

Carmazzi and Janes welcomed twins just eight months ago. As they both prepare to return to the stage, Janes said he has a new appreciation for the challenge of preparing to perform.

“Finding the time to get in shape is impossible,” he said.

Following the couple’s ballet will be “Sylph,” a piece by NCDT Member David Ingram. “Sylph” is an abstract dance about a poet in the woods. The dance is based on Michel Fokine’s “Les Sylphides,” and Ingram said pure and idyllic partnership inspired him.

“It’s supposed to be some sort of serene utopian level of being with another person,” Ingram said. “I was really drawn to this because of the purity of the relationship between the two entities, between the man and the woman.”

“Les Sylphides,” based on “La Sylphide,” was for the Ballet Russes. Frédéric Chopin’s music accompanies the pas de deux, which Ingram himself will perform.

McBride also is staging Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes” pas de deux. The dancers performed this ballet at the July 12 show as well.

Balanchine premiered “Stars and Stripes” in 1958. The ballet is a demonstration of the choreographer’s love for America, with the woman being the “Liberty Bell” and the man “El Capitan.” McBride said it requires a strong and fast technique, typical of many Balanchine works.

“Co-Dependency” will follow “Stars and Stripes.” Mark Diamond, associate artistic director, choreographed this contemporary pas de deux with a surprise ending years ago. Leslie Bassett music accompanies the ballet.

It’s dark and primitive, Diamond said, and it shows both the physical and psychological embodiments of co-dependency.

The woman relies on the man to carry and protect her throughout the ballet, but she is his source of energy. The audience may get the feeling that the dancers represent creatures from another planet. Diamond said they’ll run from clearing to clearing, craning their necks before they take a drink.

But they also can represent the social aspect of co-dependency, he said.

The evening will end with an excerpt from the classic “Don Quixote,” staged by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance. Marius Petipa choreographed this piece, which Bonnefoux said dancers almost always enjoy performing, though most have done so several times.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It’s fun for the dancers, even today.”

Ludwig Minkus’ music plays with the ballet. Bonnefoux said though it isn’t the most complex score, it does serve its purpose.

The Chautauqua Dance Circle will host a pre-performance lecture at 7 p.m. tonight in Smith Wilkes Hall.  The pre-performance lecture allows the audience to learn more about the choreography and history of the dances from those who staged or choreographed them.

UPDATE: The story has been changed to correct the mention of the dancers who performed George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” at the gala in New York City.