Janes, Carmazzi to discuss evolution of dance

Christopher A. Record | Provided photo
Sasha Janes and Rebecca Carmazzi, pictured above, will lead Chautauqua Dance Circle’s lecture “Transitions: Classical to Contemporary Ballet” at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.

The iconic image of a tutu-fitted classical ballerina may be legendary, but it’s not permanent.

In a world of perpetual progress and transformation, dance is not immune to change. Recent developments in dance have seen a shift toward modern and contemporary movement, which often means reshaping the way people think of the quintessential ballerina.

This transition from conventional to current dancing is the focus of the Chautauqua Dance Circle’s next lecture at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ. The lecture, titled “Transitions: Classical to Contemporary Ballet,” will be led by Sasha Janes, associate artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet, and Rebecca Carmazzi, a former professional dancer.

Janes and Carmazzi plan to speak on the evolution of ballet, starting in the 19th century and working their way up to what audiences see on stage today. Their talk will be accompanied by a demonstration, as Janes and Carmazzi plan to physically illustrate various dance positions in order to give audience members visual points of reference.

“We’ll be showing classical and contemporary poses, and showing how similar — yet abstract and different — they can be,” Carmazzi said.

According to Janes, the dance revolution truly began with George Balanchine, a choreographer who was groundbreaking in the way he was able to utilize ballet technique in a contemporary fashion. He played with the traditional shapes of dance and elevated the musicality of ballet, Janes said.

After Balanchine came modern dancers like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, performers who were a bit edgier and a bit more daring, Janes said, and who weren’t afraid to abandon traditional conventions of dance, like wearing pointe shoes and tutus. Janes compared their influence in the dance sphere to the influence of modern painters in the art world.

 “You have the great artists like Rembrandt, who would make a painting that looks like a photograph,” Janes said. “Then you have the modernists like Picasso, who just started messing with art, abstracting it. They’re still artists, though, and they’re still using the same composition. The modernists were just experimental, pushing the boundaries of tradition.”

In the same way, Janes believes that, while dance styles may differ, all carry artistic weight. Although the final choreographic products may be visually different, dance all boils down to the same classic fundamentals.

“Ballet is always going to be there,” Janes said. “It’s like learning an instrument. You always learn a classical instrument first — if you want to be a great guitarist, you first learn classical guitar. It’s the same in dance.”

While Janes said that dance is continuously progressing and possibly moving away from classical ballet, he doesn’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. People must be able to strike a balance between tradition and innovation without losing either one, he said.

“It’s the future of dance,” he said of contemporary ballet. “I think we’ll always have the classics, but audiences are exposed to many different forms of dance now. I think it is probably a good thing that we’ve propelled dance forward.”

Janes and Carmazzi plan to explore the ever-changing face of dance further during today’s lecture. Above all else, they hope the audience leaves their talk with a greater knowledge and understanding of the art form they’ve dedicated their lives to.

“It’s always important to educate the audience,” Janes said. “The greater background and knowledge you have of dance, the greater appreciation you have for the art form.”