Tag Archives: aka: ballet

Preview: SMU Fall Dance Concert 2019

Gleaming Ballet

Ballet Dallas’ Carter Alexander takes us to the gardens of Vienna in his new ballet Luisant, part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Fall Dance Concert at SMU.

Carter Alexander’s Luisant. Photo: SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Dallas — Carter Alexander has made quite a name for himself in the Dallas dance arena since moving back to the area in 2013. His name and choreography has been attached to many local dance institutions, including Chamberlain Ballet, Contemporary Ballet Dallas (now Ballet Dallas), Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) and the dance department at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Meadows School of the Arts. He was also the creator of AKA: Ballet, a collaborative project that brought local choreographers and professional dancers together for one night at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center in July 2018.

In addition to teaching and choreographing for dance schools around town, Alexander is also the co-artistic director of Ballet Dallas, a role he accepted because of his great rapport with the company. “What really drove my decision was my relationship with the dancers. They were interested in what I had to give. And that is such a wonderful thing when people are hungry for what you have to say and what your aesthetic is and they’re really hungry for that kind of relationship to work together.”

Alexanders adds, “I think that the dancers see their improvement as artists and not just technically. And I think the work that I have done there has been really good for them and I’ve brought in some interesting people for them to work with.”

Photo: Ken Smith
Carter Alexander

Alexander’s ballet training started at his mom’s dance studio in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He then moved to Dallas to finish high school at BTWHSPVA. After graduation Alexander joined the Hartford Ballet, which is also where he first met his wife, Jeanne Elser Smith. After Hartford Ballet he joined Kansas City Ballet and also began teaching in the Kansas City Ballet School. After four years at KC Ballet Alexander moved on to Pennsylvania Ballet where his wife was also a company member.

As a ballet instructor Alexander has taught at the Ballet Workshop New England/Massachusetts Youth Ballet, the School of Ballet Arizona and the Miami City Ballet School, which at the time was under the leadership of Edward Villella.

Mostly recently Alexander was asked to set a new piece for the SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Fall Dance Concert, which runs Nov. 13-17 at the Bob Hope Theatre on the SMU Campus. The program also includes a new work by award-winning jazz/tap artist Caleb Teicher and a revival of Robert Battle’s 2001 Battlefield.

Regarding the ballet’s title Alexander says he chose Luisant, which means “glowing” or “gleaming” in French, because he wanted to create an atmosphere where the dancers appear to shimmer as they move on stage. Alexanders says he is hoping to accomplish this glimmer affect with the aid of stage lighting and set design.

Alexander explains, “There’s going to be gray Marley flooring with white leg and there won’t be any borders at the top so you’ll see the color of the lights. You know the blues, reds and purples. So my idea is that these are colored lights in a garden and maybe in the fast movements it’s like little sprays of mist with the lights hitting the dancers giving them a glimmer affect.”

The 24-minute balletic work features 20 dancers (17 women and three men) in four sections set to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major. Without giving too much away Alexander says the ballet starts with the entire cast on stage before they break out into smaller groups as well as duets and solos. And sticking to classical tradition the ladies will be performing on pointe and in tutus.

As to why he chose to create a large ballet number, Alexander says, “It’s been a long time since they had a real, classical large work. I wanted to do something light, not angsty because there is something else on the program that I knew would fill that kind of role. I also wanted to give the students an opportunity to do a ballet where everybody really danced.”

Creating a large classical ballet isn’t as easy as it may appear. Alexander says one of the key things to choreographing a large ballet number is knowing how to move people around the stage. “It’s balancing when people come in and when people go out so it’s not the same the whole time. You’re giving the eye different things to look at, but you’re also giving the audience a focus.”

In Luisant, Alexander says sometimes there will be 20 people on the stage and sometimes there will be only one or two. He did this because he wanted to give audience members a lot of different looks, but notes that even though the number of dancers on stage is constantly varying, he says it’s not so fast that viewers won’t be able to see what’s happening. “It was one of my goals to make the ballet visually very pleasing. It’s a classical piece of music, but the ballet also has some jazzy parts in there as well as some contemporary movements. But it is essentially a classical ballet, which is something not a lot of people are doing now.”

He adds, “So with this piece for SMU I really wanted to give the students the opportunity to dance something very classical. But they are also wonderful in their modern and contemporary work so I wanted them to be able to relate the two and understand how the classical has all of that movement from the back and the flow through the movement, but also quick and sustained movement.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Preview: Making Moves, AKA: Ballet

AKA: Ballet offers up a unique experience for both viewers and performers at the Latino Cultural Center tomorrow night.

From left: Carter Alexander, Hailey von Schlehenried, and Albert Drake of aka: Ballet. Photo: AKA: Ballet

Dallas — Hailey von Schlehenried is one of many local choreographers reaping the benefits of the changes that have been made to the Dallas dancescape over the last several years. Von Schlehenried first caught the public’s eye at Avant Chamber Ballet’s 2017 Women’s Choreography Project (WCP) and then again at Dallas DanceFest (DDF) later that summer. She has also recently been asked to set a piece for Wanderlust Dance Project, which marks another first for the blossoming artist.

It was at DDF where von Schlehenried met Carter Alexander (associate artistic director for Chamberlain Performing Arts) who asked if she would be interested in doing a collaboration the following summer. One thing lead to another and von Schlehenried is currently in the final stages of two new works, which will be presented alongside new pieces by Alexander and Albert Drake of Bruce Wood Dance at AKA: Ballet’s premiere performance at the Latino Cultural Center this Friday.

The performance will feature many familiar dancers, including Kaitlyn McDermitt, formerly with Avant Chamber Ballet; Alyssa Harrington, formerly with Dallas Black Dance Theatre; Alizah Wilson, Adrian Aquirre of Bruce Wood Dance; and Riley Moyano, Amanda Fairweather and Alex Danna of Texas Ballet Theater.

“We are so happy to have these dancers and they have been working so tirelessly in preparation for the show,” von Schlehenried says.

For this performance von Schlehenried has created two pieces: a classical pointe number and a more contemporary work. She describes the pointe work as fluid and free, and in contrast the contemporary work is visually darker, which meshes well with its theme about sinning. “I was really inspired by the music for the contemporary piece which is really centered on the idea of sin. The dancers pass around this scarf throughout the dance, which represents this idea of passing off our sins to someone else,” von Schlehenried says. “And the pointe piece is all about letting go and getting the dancers outside their classical boxes so that they appear to be surrendering to a situation.”

Von Schlehenried says her dancers played a big part in the creative process for both pieces. “I really wanted this to be a collaboration so I had the dancers brainstorm with me, which really makes them feel like they have a say and also relaxes the dancers. They all possess this amazing creative energy which helped make the process so much easier.”

Von Schlehenried is especially close with McDermitt who has had a role in almost every work she has put out since 2013. She even goes as far as calling McDermitt her lucky charm. “It just seems that every time I am working on a special project Kaitlyn is always in it. She is such a lovely person and is so into what she is doing, which really makes her a positive force for me and the arts community.”

McDermitt has definitely been paving a way for herself in the Dallas arts scene with gigs, including a couple of seasons with Katie Cooper’s Avant Chamber Ballet, performances at local festivals such as Plano Dance Festival and DDF as well as partaking in local arts events, including Dallas RAW and AKA: Ballet. She also teaches at Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas and is a member of Ballet North Texas. She graduated from Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts with a BFA in dance performance in 2012.

You can see McDermitt and the other performers in von Schlehenried’s, still untitled, works this Friday evening at the Latino Cultural Center. Tickets are available at www.ticketweb.com. You can make a donation to the show at www.fracturedatlas.org.

This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

New Local Choreography Project Needs Funding

AKA Ballet’s first performance will feature new works by Albert Drake, Hailey von Schlehenried and Carter Alexander, but they need your help!

aka ballet 2
From Left: Albert Drake, Carter Alexander and Hailey von Schlehenried. Photo courtesy of AKA Ballet.

Summer is usually a slow time for dancers as most dance companies take a break during the hot summer months to prepare for the next season. And most dance schools have changed their schedule to focus primarily on dance camps, which leaves many teachers with less hours and a smaller income. It is especially hard for freelance dancers to find work during the summer as the job market comes to a standstill and won’t pick up again till September when Nutcracker preparations begin.

With all this in mind three local choreographers are looking to change things up this summer with a new choreography project!

Albert Drake, Hailey von Schlehenried and Carter Alexander have joined forces to create AKA Ballet, a new choreographic endeavor which features six new works to be presented at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center in July. The catch is the three creators are hoping to raise the funds needed to pay the dancers, musicians and technical crew prior to show, thus making the event FREE to attendees.

A lot of dance companies in the area have turned to crowdfunding to finance certain projects, performances or specific individuals. I typically just scroll past these posts on Facebook, but something about AKA Ballet’s project made me pause and click on their link https://www.gofundme.com/akaballet

I ended up contributing to this project because I have seen work produced by all three choreographer so, I know they will give us something that is high caliber as well as aesthetically moving and stylistically diverse. If you are not familiar with these three individuals: Drake is a member of Bruce Wood Dance and has produced two works for the company, Whispers (2015) and Chasing Home (2017). Von Schlehenried teaches at Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas and her choreography has been featured at Dallas DanceFest 2017 and Avant Chamber Ballet’ Women’s Choreography Project. Alexander is the associate artistic director for Chamberlain Performing Arts and has set work on local dance companies like Contemporary Ballet Dallas. He also served as school prinicpal at the Miami City Ballet School for seven years before returning to Dallas.

When asked about the idea of free admission von Schlehenried says, “We really just want people to embrace the art and come see what we are doing and tell us what they think. We also want to provide more job opportunities for those working in the arts community which is why we are asking for donations so we can also pay for the music and the lighting and the theater as well as the dancers.”

She adds, “Carter is really the one that got the ball rolling on this project. He approached me last year after Dallas DanceFest about doing some kind of collaboration next summer and of course I said YES! I just think this is an awesome idea and hopefully it can become something bigger in the future.”

Drake is also pumped for the opportunity to create work outside his comfort zone. He writes on this Facebook page, “I’m excited to challenge myself on a new front and dive into an experience I didn’t know was possible. The chance to work with some really talented individuals with the freedom of expression is the dream baby.”

Hailey also hinted that the three of them might be working on a piece together in addition to their own individual works. I am interested to see what a classical, modern and Flamenco dancer can come up with.

As the time draws closer I will be making visits to rehearses to see how the collaboration is going as well as get a sneak peak at the works, which I will then share on my blog. So, please mark your calendars for July 29th and don’t forget to donate!