The last dance

Alessandra Ball and Addul Manzano pose on the porch of Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studios. Both are members of the North Carolina Dance Theatre in Residence and will perform their last show for the season with School of Dance students and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Saturday. Photo by Demetrius Freeman.

Final performance balances classical and contemporary

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, remembers what it’s like to spend the day rehearsing, practicing and perfecting his technique.

During his time at the New York City Ballet, he said it wasn’t rare for him to have to perform after a long day of preparation.

His heart wasn’t in it, he said, until he heard the orchestra.

North Carolina Dance Theatre in residence with Chautauqua Dance will perform with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater. While performing with an orchestra can be a particularly exhilarating experience for a dancer — especially those who have always performed with a tape — Bonnefoux said it also requires a balance between a steady tempo and creativity.

“We need a conductor that will follow what’s needed to bring the ballet piece successfully together,” he said, “but we also need the conductor and musicians to not feel restricted.”

This will be the company’s final performance of the season.

Sasha Janes, rehearsal director and guest choreographer, said he’s felt NCDT has maintained strength and diversity throughout each individual performance.

This season has taught him a lot as well, he said, including how to vary his work.

“I’ve gained a lot from just working on my first piece,” he said. “It stretched me in a different way, and now I’m going to the complete other extreme, so it’s good. I’ve been able to do a wide range of things.”

The evening will begin with “Scherzo,” a piece by Mark Diamond, associate artistic director of Chautauqua Dance.

Diamond said he choreographed this contemporary ballet in 2006 for the Advanced Apprentice students in North Carolina, and in 2007, it went to the National Dance Festival in Pittsburgh.

He said the choreography, which requires a strong female lead, is graceful yet different.

“There’s lots of balletic movement,” he said, “but it has this sort of neoclassical style with a little bit of a twist toward the Grecian movement you see with ancient pottery.”

The familiar Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony accompanies the ballet, which holds several themes repeated and varied throughout the music.

Janes’ “Rhapsodic Dances” will follow. He said he hasn’t yet had the experience of choreographing for a symphony evening — something he’s been looking forward to for a long time.

This ballet, with music by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, is full of difficult and fast classical movement.

“I think it’s really going to push the dancers’ classical ballet technique. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging.”

Janes said he will reprise this ballet for a program in North Carolina, which will feature two other contemporary pieces, showcasing the diversity of NCDT.

Following intermission, Bonnefoux’s “July’s Delight” will close out the performance. He worked with Guest Conductor Grant Cooper last summer on creating this ballet, set to several Johann Strauss polkas, waltzes and marches.

Cooper linked them together so they flowed more easily for the dancers, Bonnefoux said. The piece begins with a lot of energy and ends on a dreamier note. It requires a lot of dancers, so Bonnefoux said he’s using company members along with Apprentice and Festival students.

The Chautauqua Dance Circle will host a pre-performance lecture at 7 p.m. Saturday in Smith Wilkes Hall. The lecture acts as an introduction to the performance, with the choreographers speaking briefly on their respective works.