Dance students to stage range of styles in season’s final show


Dancers from the Chautauqua School of Dance pose for a portrait at Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio. Photo by Demetrius Freeman.

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

Sunday afternoon will be filled with both firsts and lasts for the Chautauqua School of Dance.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, the students take the stage for the last time, performing 15 dances and solos, ranging from classical ballet to hip-hop.

The opening piece will be “Place Montmartre,” with choreography by Michael Vernon. This ballet, performed both at the first gala and at the festival performance earlier this season, is all about characters.

Young schoolgirls, an angry policeman chasing a sinister man and couples in love all run around a busy French square. Music by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich accompanies the ballet.

Next will be an excerpt from the Rodgers and Hammerstein “Cinderella,” with choreography by Maris Battaglia. Battaglia, associate artistic director of the School of Dance, said Workshop students and one Apprentice student will perform this piece, which includes the five-minute ballroom scene from the ballet.

The infamous “Black Swan” solo will follow “Cinderella.” Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, staged this work by Marius Petipa. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Op. 20, accompanies the ballet.

Bonnefoux also choreographed a piece titled “For Austin.” This solo is set to music by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

“Bach Concerto” will follow Bonnefoux’s piece. This ballet is for the Workshop students. It’s a four-minute dance Battaglia said she’s been doing since she came here. It’s one of her favorites, with movement that’s more traditional.

“It’s a little more Balanchine technique,” she said. “It’s a little neoclassic combined with classical ballet.”

Master Teacher Patricia McBride staged the next solo from “Raymonda Variations.” It’s a Balanchine work, with music by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. McBride, who has a place in the Balanchine Trust, stages several of his works for her students throughout the season, including the final ballet of Sunday afternoon.

The fourth and final solo will be Petipa’s “Le Corsaire.” Bonnefoux staged this piece, with music by French composer Adolphe Adam.

The Festival students will then perform “Tribe,” a modern piece from Jon Lehrer’s contemporary dance company out of Buffalo, N.Y.

This is one section of a three-section dance, Lehrer said. It’s about the closeness of a dance company, how they interact in physical and ceremonial ways.

Following “Tribe” will be “Shostakovich by Rostropovich,” which Battaglia also staged. This three-and-a-half minute piece is a neoclassic and contemporary ballet.

Battaglia said the students will begin on the floor and end on the floor, with the entire dance being on pointe.

The students also will do two hip-hop dances, a first for the Chautauqua School of Dance.

The first, which will be performed by Festival dancers, is “Run the World,” with choreography by Rachel Humphreys, a teacher at Battaglia’s studio in Buffalo.

Humphreys said both dances are simply combinations of everything the students have learned in class.

“It’s just a very different way of moving for them,” she said. “So they have a very structured set all day long, and this is really where they can let loose and let their personalities come through.”

Humphreys said hip-hop has a way of expanding a ballerina’s dance vocabulary. She takes a lot from what they already know and transforms it.

“Hip-hop is nothing more than a plié and a tendu,” she said. “We just did it in a completely different style.”

Battaglia also put together a piece called “Dance for Seven,” to follow “Run the World.” This is a shorter ballet for the Workshop students, with one boy and six girls.

Each girl partners with the boy, performing simple lifts.

“Noble Sentiments” is next. Mark Diamond, associate artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, choreographed this piece for both Festival and Apprentice dancers.

Diamond described the ballet as both lyrical and contemporary. It’s made up entirely of waltzes, with music by Maurice Ravel.

Lehrer also taught his Workshop students a dance titled “Hearth,” which follows Diamon’s ballet. This also is a section from a modern piece in his company’s repertoire.

The dance is about a woman who is the center of everything; she is the hearth, though he said the audience might not get the full effect from this one section.

Lehrer is finishing up his first season at Chautauqua, where modern dance is not quite as common as classical and neoclassical ballet. He said the students all have responded well to contemporary movement. They’ve learned that it’s more about communication through dance than anything else.

“I think what they all understand is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re standing in first position or fifth position or you’re rolling around on the floor on the floor in a contraction,” he said. “It’s all just ways of communicating physically. One is not better or worse; one is not lesser or greater.”

The Workshop dancers will then perform “Speakerbox,” the second hip-hop dance, also with choreography by Humphreys.

Balanchine’s “Donizetti Variations” will end the school’s performance. McBride staged this piece for the Festival and Apprentice dancers, though they performed it twice earlier in the season.

This ballet, like many Balanchine works, requires quick footwork and lots of energy. The choreographer made this work in 1960 for soloists and principal dancers from the New York City Ballet.

Battaglia, who has worked with the students throughout their time here, said she’s been consistently impressed with the way they absorb what they’ve been taught.

“They’re like little sponges,” she said. “They’re just a great group, and it’s great for me to come here and work with the cream of the crop from the country.”