Colorado Ballet’s newest work explores the stark reality of military service: some return to loving families, others never return. That discord is echoed in the driving beat of the music – courtesy of Colorado’s own DeVotchKa. “For me it’s always the music. I have to have music that I can envision movement to,” said Colorado Ballet choreographer Sandra Brown. When she heard DeVotchKa’s “All The Sand In All The Sea,” her mind began to dance. It inspired the choreographer and ballet mistress, to create her newest work The Last Beat, which uses five songs from several different albums.
“The work is very passionate. It is constantly moving. The dancers are darting in and out of the wings,” said Brown. “It is about relationships. It is about love, loss and hope.”
The music and lyrics sung by DeVotchKa lead singer Nick Urata are also stimulus for Colorado Ballet Principal Maria Mosina.
“The music very emotional,” said Mosina, a Russian native and Boloshoi Ballet stand out recruited by Colorado Ballet 19 years ago. “It help us to bring our emotion out to our movements, to the audience, and it’s very helpful actually.”
Inasmuch as a military-centered ballet driven by indie rock differs from classics like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, you will also find distinctions in the look and feel of contemporary versus classical ballet.
In contemporary ballet, the movement is as staccato as classical is sinuous. The lines of classical ballet are vertical, dancers legs are turned out, and they are on their balance. The look is long, lean, square, and even. Contemporary incorporates that foundation and mixes it up. Lines could be horizontal or inverted and dancers might appear to be off balance.
Dana Benton is among the company members negotiating the rigors of both styles.
“Contemporary just give you that push to go outside the box and go way off your leg and see, ‘How far can I go today without falling over?’ ‘How can I stretch myself even more today?’ And just testing yourself the whole time,” said Benton, a Colorado Ballet Soloist.
Choreographer Sandra Brown and Artistic Director Gil Boggs have danced both styles with American Ballet Theatre in New York. For Boggs, contemporary ballet helps advance the art form.
“They need to work with the choreographers. They need to be a part of the collaborative process of new work being put together. It challenges them as artists when they do that,” said Boggs.
In addition to The Last Beat, the end of the 2013-2014 season Ballet Director’s Choice performance also includes two previously performed contemporary works, Feast of the Gods, and Traveling Alone. Each had world premieres in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
“The great thing about bringing them back is that the company grows more into them as artists,” said Boggs. “They’ve done it, they performed it, and now they are revisiting the material and it actually gets better with age, if you will.”
By performance time, the dancers don’t distinguish between brand new or previously performed.
Asked to describe what she experiences in performance, Maria Mosina sighed euphorically.
“It’s like, sometimes like in your dreams. It’s something emotional and happy. But it could be hard work,” mused Mosina. “And when It’s done and when you are doing your last bow and you are hearing the ovations from the audience and that’s what you live for as a dancer.”
By Carrie Saldo
Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, RMPBS, and KUVO.