ORLANDO – Sometimes performance art really isn’t about the story that’s being told, Robert Hill admits.
“It’s the most ridiculous story in the world – a woman turning into a swan and a guy saying he’s in live with her. It’s ridiculous,” said Hill, the artistic director of the Orlando Ballet, which is performing Hill’s interpretation of the classic ballet next weekend.
But as Hill noted, staging a production like “Swan Lake” is not about ensuring the plot unfolds neatly and plausibly. Much more important, he said, is ensuring that the dancers capture the skill and grace required for this production – and, equally critical, that their facial expressions convey what words can’t.
Douglas Horn, one of the young dancers who will be performing in the show, agreed that in a production with no dialogue or spoken words, facial expressions are essential – and not always easy to master.
“I know I’m not supposed to use my eyebrows much, and I’ve been doing that a lot,” he said.
Just the same, Horn said every performer has to literally become the character they play – no matter how exaggerated that character might be.
“It is a silly story, but there are a lot of silly stories out there,” Horn said. “And you have to live with it, and be it. You are this character. You have to be intertwined with the character.”
And that’s one thing that’s unique about “Swans,” Horn added.
“It’s very character-driven,” he said. “You can’t be playing character, you have to be character.”
The Orlando Ballet held a media preview of “Swans: Black and White” today, and the production opens on Friday, March 30 at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, with two more shows on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1.
The local media were invited to watch scenes from the production in the Orlando Ballet’s studio at 1111 N. Orlando Ave.
“We’re really excited about seeing it today,” said Treva Marshall, media relations contact for TJM Communications, Inc., the firm handling publicity for the Orlando Ballet. “Thank you for your continued support of the Orlando Ballet.”
Throughout the performances, Hill made it clear that he was very pleased, and excited, about how well his cast of dancers were doing.
“That was beautiful, you guys, absolutely stunning,” he said, adding that he made an effort to cast virtually every student in this production.
“We have multiple casts to try to get everyone involved in the ballet,” Hill said.
The “Swan Lake” ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky was composed in 1875-1876, and was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet on March 4 1877. Originally in four acts, it was taken from Russian folk tales and told the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse.
In adapting a modern version of the play, Hill said he cut the production in half in terms of length, and went with the highlights.
“I sort of structured how the numbers would be arranged,” he said. “I saved the best parts of the feature and trimmed the excesses. People don’t spend three to four hours in the theater anymore, as they once did. This one is kind of fashioned to the times.”
“Swans” finishes out the Orlando Ballet’s season, which included Hill’s original production of “Vampire’s Ball” last October, followed by “The Nutcracker” for the holidays and then “Battle of the Sexes III” in February.
“It’s nice to be able to be ending this season by coming right back to the roots of where we came from, which is classic ballet,” Hill said.
Then over the summer, the school will remain quite busy, said Dierde Miles Burger, the director of the Orlando Ballet School.
“The faculty in the school, as we speak, is going through the process of being certified for the American Ballet Theatre National Teacher Training curriculum,” she said.
After that comes the Orlando Ballet’s new season in the fall.
“We’re going to bring back ‘Vampire’s Ball,’ “ Hill said. “Then we will do ‘The Nutcracker’ again. In the early spring, we will do an evening with movie songs, some well known and some not so well known.” That production, he said, will be dubbed “Hollywood en Pointe.”
“Then in the spring we will return with ‘The Little Mermaid,’ “ he said.
Next weekend, young ballet enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the Orlando Ballet’s Family Series production of “The Swan Princess,” which will be performed on March 31 at 11 a.m. This one-hour performance, targeted to younger audiences, tells the story of Princess Odette, and the kids will have an opportunity to enjoy arts and crafts, face painting and other activities an hour before each performance. Tickets range from $22-30.
The performances of “Swans: Black and White” take place at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets for regular season performances range from $15-75. For tickets or more information on the Orlando Ballet’s 2011-2012 season or Family Series, call 407-426-1739 or visit www.orlandoballet.org.
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