ImPULSE Dance Project takes us to the circus in Not Your Average Masquerade at the Medical City Lewisville Grand Theater this weekend.
Photo: Impulse Dance Project
Impulse Dance Project rehearses for Not Your Average Masquerade
Lewisville — Over the last eight years ImPULSE Dance Project has built quite a following in Dallas by providing audiences with dance experiences that are original, reflective and highly-entertaining that also celebrate the art of modern dance. Case in point ImPULSE’s annual Snow performance, My Beating Heart (2016) and True Colors (2013). Continuing on this path ImPULSE has put together an immersive dance production for its eighth season opener, Not Your Average Masquerade, which takes place Nov. 2-3 in the recital hall at the Medical City Lewisville (MCL) Grand Theater.
This dance experience takes the audience on a journey through a strange circus, but there is more than what meets the eye in this elusive spectacle, according to the company’s press release. “The performers go on a journey as well; a journey of self-discovery and revealing their true identity,” says ImPULSE Artistic Director Anastasia Waters. “This production aims to create a unique dance experience for the viewer, releasing them from limitations of one seat and freeing them to move about and view the dance from a variety of perspectives.”
Not Your Average Masquerade is an evening-length work that Waters created in collaboration with ImPULSE company member Miranda Spence. Waters tells me that the show began as a mission to explore how to bring their audience into the dance. “I have always been interested in finding ways to connect with the audience not only through relatable concepts, but truly bringing the audience into the world I am trying to create.”
Waters continues, “This is why I love intimate dance spaces. Usually in a dance performance the audience is on the outside looking in at the world the dancers are in, almost as if the dancers are in a snow globe. In this show I wanted to bring the audience into our world.”
This world that Waters and Spence have created is representative of the performers and animals you would typically see at the circus. Waters says that she has always loved going to the circus, but always felt a little sad for the animals and saw the circus performers as people looking to find themselves. “This is such a relatable theme for almost everyone,” Waters says. “We hear phrases like ‘I’m running away to the circus’ a lot in life when we are struggling with our life circumstances.”
She adds, “And even though it was amazing what the horses, elephants and lions were doing, I always wondered if they really wanted to be doing it. That again leads back to questions of identity. Is this who I want to be? Is this who I am? Who do I want to be? How do I become who I want to be? So, in this show there is a sense of discomfort within the mysticism, and an underlying theme of searching for identity.”
The location of this site-specific production is the recital hall at the MCL Grand Theater, which Waters says is a beautiful space usually meant for parties and banquets. She is particularly fond of its high ceilings, lights, mirrors and large windows. “In this show I wanted to see how I could use all of the beautiful attributes of the space to tell the story within the show. So, we make use of every nook and cranny of this space. All of this has truly opened up the possibility for exciting spontaneous moments throughout the performance.”
Waters also notes that while there are some designated areas for the performers to dance, most of the show happens in, around and through the audience. She adds that there are also moments where the audience will be guided to move to certain areas of the space throughout the dance.
Looking over the entire process Waters says the most challenging aspect for her has been trying to predict where the audience will be in the very unpredictable immersive experience. “This is what makes the show exciting, but also its greatest challenge. Not only will our audience need to be very responsive to the dance, but our dancers will have to be very adaptable to where the audience is choosing to be.”
As to what she hopes the audience will take away from this dance experience, Waters says, “My goal is to connect with our audience at a whole new level. I want our audience to leave excited for the possibilities of what dance can be and do. I want to give our audience a truly unique experience.”
LakeCities Ballet Theatre serves up another kid-friendly ballet with Coppelia, featuring special guest Steven Loch at MCL Grand Theater in Lewsiville.
Lewisville — As I watched LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT) rehearse Act 1 of Coppelia Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin leaned over and whispered how this particular section of music always reminds her about the time their Franz injured himself mid-performance and Steven Loch, who was 12 at the time, was asked to step in and danced the final part of show perfectly.
Later, when I mentioned this story to Loch in the breakroom where we sat down to talk he laughed and says he gets acknowledged quite often for his ability to jump into roles at the last second—a skill that he says he learned from Lannin and her team at the Ballet Conservatory in Lewisville.
“There is so much supply and not enough demand so the high level of excellence gets even more exaggerated,” Loch says about what it takes today to become a professional ballet dancer. “You have to be the most valuable worker to have the best shot, and I think one of the great things about here is Kelly knew that from the beginning. She knew that if you want to make it as a dancer than you’re going to have to learn to do it all.”
Photo: Pacific Northwest Ballet
He adds, “And also too, the standard that she puts on students are so high and you know have to hit those standards because there’s no forgiveness. Then, when you go the professional world you have good habits. You’re disciplined. You’re a good worker. You’re a professional and you’re a good human. And it’s actually surprising how valuable that is. And Kelly’s standard is such that even for understudies you have to be able to jump in and do it perfectly so that no one notices or you are going to be in trouble.”
But in the same breath Loch also says Lannin is very nurturing, which I saw firsthand during one of the company’s Coppelia rehearsals a couple of weeks ago. “She is so sweet and loving and gives so much of herself,” Loch says. “She gave me so much love and not only cared about me as a dancer, but also a person. She was my mentor growing up and she taught me everything in order to be ready for the professional world.”
After graduating from high school in 2009, Loch joined the professional program at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). He joined the company in 2011 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2012. He was promoted to soloist at the end of last season. Throughout his career with PNB Loch has returned home on numerous occasions to perform leading roles in LBT’s productions, including Dracula, Giselle, The Nutcracker and Coppelia.
As for his reasons for returning, Loch says, “This place is my home and it has given me so much so I definitely want to return the favor.”
He continues, “I also get called in to do the leading roles, which when I was younger I didn’t get the opportunities to do. It also gives me more practice and experience in these roles so when I start performing lead roles in Seattle I will be more ready.”
Regarding his reaction to the news of his promotion last season, Loch says, “When I got promoted to soloist it was really satisfying because I had put so much work into it and to see the fruits of your labor turn in to something like this just felt really special.”
He adds, “As dancers we are all perfectionists so earning this title has also definitely given me more confidence.”
Watching Loch jump into rehearsal after just stepping off a plane I couldn’t help but wonder what he does to help prevent injury and illness. On this topic Loch says, “Recovery is so important so anything that can help me speed up recovery is great. I do cryotherapy. I have Norma Tec boots. I do a lot of stretching and roll out using a roller. I also do massage and work with this lady who does Trager Approach in addition to neuromuscular therapy.”
Of all the recovery methods that he uses Loch says the cryotherapy has been the most effective for him. “It’s so much more efficient than icing because you are put in such a cold environment that the blood goes to your core instead of your extremities. So it’s more nutrient rich, and it only takes three minutes, and you are able to move afterwards, so you can do it before working out or after working out. And it makes you recover three times faster than you normally would so, for me that has been a huge game changer.”
You can check out Loch in LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s rendition of Coppelia, March 29-31, at the Medical City of Lewisville Grand Theater in Lewisville.
The American Ballet Theatre principal dancer on performing Giselle with LakeCities Ballet Theatre and guest teaching at Dance Planet 22 this weekend.
Lewisville — The image we have of ballet dancers today is changing thanks to professional dancers like Misty Copeland, David Hallberg and Sarah Lane. These dancers have done what many say is impossible and have brought classical ballet into households around the world with their artistic pursuits both on and off the stage. Copeland is the first African-American to reach principal status at American Ballet Theatre (ABT). In 2011, Hallberg became the first American to join the ranks of the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow. And Lane is most recognized for her role as dance double for Natalie Portman in Fox Searchlight Pictures’ feature movie Black Swan (2010). But in the last year Lane has also been making some big moves on stage as well, if her promotion to principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in September 2017 is any indication. She also received positive reviews for her debut role in Giselle last spring at the Metropolitan Opera House (MET) in New York City.
Throughout her career with ABT, which started in 2003 as an apprentice, Lane has performed in numerous classical ballets, including Cinderella, Coppélia, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lakeand Les Sylphide. She also created the Chinese dance in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, the Miettes Qui Tombent (Breadcrumb) in Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty, Miranda in The Tempest, Princess Praline in Whipped Cream and a role in Demis Volpi’s Private Light. Lane has also performed in works by notable choreographers such as Sir Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, George Balanchine, Liam Scarlett, Jorma Elo, Marcelo Gomes, Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp.
Lane began her dance training in Memphis, Tenn. under the direction of Pat Gillespie at the Memphis Classical Ballet. When her family moved to Rochester, N.Y., she continued her training with Timothy Draper and Jamey Leverett at the Draper Center for Dance Education. At age 16, Lane received a full scholarship to the Boston Ballet’s Summer Program. In 2000 and 2001, she was awarded first place and the Capezio Class Excellence Award at the North American Ballet Festival. In 2002 Lane became a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.
Lane will be pulling double duty this weekend as she reprises her role in LakeCities Ballet Theatre’sGiselle and guest teaches at Dance Planet 22. TheaterJones.com caught up with Lane after she returned from tour last week to discuss her rise through the ranks at ABT, preparing for the role of Giselle and participating in Dance Planet 22.
TheaterJones: Growing up, was becoming a professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) your main goal?
Sarah Lane: I have always loved dancing, but I never expected to be in a major ballet company because I just never felt that highly of myself. It wasn’t a goal I felt was obtainable for me until we moved to Rochester, New York, and I started at a more difficult school and was exposed to more teachers and guest teachers in the summers. I loved imagining myself as a professional ballet dancer because of the qualities these teachers brought to their classes and their teaching skills really rubbed off on me. So I kept working, and when I was 16 I came to New York City with a friend and saw ABT perform at the MET for the first time, and it made me think that maybe my dream is to be in ABT.
I always thought that NYC was too big of a city for me and being part of ABT would be too stressful, but then I thought of how beautiful the dancers looked on stage and I really wanted to be a part of that. And I think a lot of this had to do with the ballerina I saw that night, Amanda McKellow, who to this day is one of my favorite ballet dancers. She has such a sensibility when she moves and is so humble and she helped me a little bit with Giselle in the studio, which also happens to be the ballet I saw her perform in when I was 16.
You mentioned that you never saw yourself becoming a professional ballet dancer because you didn’t think that highly of yourself. How did you find the confidence to pursue your goal of joining a professional company?
Well, it’s something that I struggle with to this day. And I guess you can call it my Achilles heel because I have never been incredibly sure of myself. I love what I do and I get lost in it and I get lost in a certain feeling. It’s the feeling and the ideas I bring to what I do that drives me. And also the people that I work with and the processes that just make my performances whole rather than me coming out and thinking ok I can do this, this and this. So, instead of it being about me and myself and what I can do that drives me, it’s more about the artistry and what ideas I am trying to portray. So, in that sense I guess I don’t focus so much on whether I have confidence or not. I would say my confidence has gotten better over the years in that I’ve learned to appreciate the process more, and if I give more to the process then it distracts me when I go onstage so I can focus on the work more.
Looking at your career as a whole what advice do you have for the next generation of ballet dancers?
The most important thing is to have a really good work ethic because if you think you are too good to work or if you have one good show and you don’t think you have to work after that then that’s your downfall. Your whole career is going to be work and it’s not easy for anyone. Humility is also very important and having perspective in life and just keep working. I mean, perfectionism is great because that’s what keeps you working, but another point is you can’t judge yourself so much that you lose your love for what you do.
You were a soloist with ABT for 10 years before being promoted to principal last year. At any point during those years did you just want to throw in the towel?
I felt like I was just bashing my head up against a brick wall for many years. I wanted to go further and I wanted to develop and I wanted to do new and fresh works, but the thing is nothing is ever lined up so you can get what you want all the time. And that is how it was for me. I wasn’t lucky with the timing of how the company was going for a huge chunk of my career. But at the end of the day I learned a lot of things I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t have to persevere through that time. I learned how to work for myself and drain as much as I could from a role, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was thrown into things faster. I wouldn’t have learned how to keep myself occupied and keep myself entertained with what I had. So, this taught me perseverance and how to motivate myself. I mean if you really love something than you have to keep working toward it. Even when you get discouraged you have to find a way to inspire yourself.
You had your debut in Giselle at the MET last May and received rave reviews. One critic even called you the Giselle for the Millennials. How did you go about making the role your own?
I really enjoy the depth of the story and the ethereal feel of the second half. This wasn’t a role I was thrown into. I have done so many peasant pas’s in my career that playing Giselle just felt like the next step for me. So, for me it wasn’t like all of the sudden I was on that night. It was more of a progression of so many years of continuing to be disciplined and continuing to love what I do. I have such fond memories of doing the ballet with LakeCities Ballet Theatre nine years ago that when I finally did it with ABT I just had such love for it that whatever judgements I had about myself I had to throw out the door because I felt like the ballet didn’t deserve any of that. And even though Giselle is one of the oldest ballets, it still contains emotions and storylines that people can relate with today such as love and betrayal. So, the ballet is still living and breathing the emotions that we have as human beings.
You performed in LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s (LBT) Giselle nine year ago, and you have also been playing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Company’s Nutcracker since 2014. What do you enjoy most about working with these young dancers?
It always helps to having someone older to look up too and learn from so I hope that there is something these dancers can learn from me and that I could be there to give them any tips or offer some encouragement. That’s what I enjoy about having these dancers around and watching and talking to them and just being a part of their productions. It’s really an honor for me to be there and to be a role model for them. LBT has a really good heart and lots of positive energy and they have kind of accepted me into their family and that just means so much to me.
While in Dallas you will also be performing and teaching classes at Dance Planet 22. How would you describe your teaching style?
I think I am a pretty fair type of teacher. I mean if someone doesn’t seem like they are really invested in my class I can be a little tough with them because if you’re not interested now then you are never going to be interested. But if a dancer is working hard, but still struggling with something I am more than happy to be gracious and give everything that I can to help them. The tough love side of me really only comes out when I feel like a student is being lazy or isn’t trying. I love coaching and being with dancers inside the classroom, so teaching is definitely something I see myself doing more of in the future!
You can see Sarah Lane in LBT’s production of Giselle April 6-7 at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theatre and Dance Planet 22 April 7-8 at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the Dallas Arts District.
A behind-the-scenes look at LakeCities Ballet Theatree’s upcoming performance of Le Ballet de Dracula in Lewisville.
Lewisville — If you are looking for something frightfully fun to do with the kiddos this Halloween, I suggest checking out LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s (LBT) fall production of Le Ballet de Dracula at the Medical City of Lewisville Grand Theater, Oct. 13-14. Complete with stellar set designs, creepy costuming, vibrant dancing and an easy to follow narrative thanks to a ghoulishly charming MC (Art Director Tom Rutherford), LBT’s Dracula has become a Halloween tradition for many families in the area, including mine. Having been a fan of the production for the last 6 years, I was excited to receive an invitation to LBT’s studio, which is located inside the Ballet Conservatory in Lewisville, to watch some rehearsal. While I was there, I got a behind the scenes look at the second half of the show, which features the brides of Dracula, and I also got the chance to talk to two of the lead performers.
I walked into rehearsal a few weekends ago while the company was going through spacing for the brides of Dracula section of the show. Known for her clean and creative choreography, it was no surprise Lannin spent most of the time tweaking the dancers’ formations and going over specific body nuances such as how the dancers should hold their hand over their hearts and where their eyes should be focused in their diagonal lines. Timing and musicality are especially important in this section as the music is very slow and purposeful so any mistakes the dancers make would be easily noticed by the audience. And with no make-up or costuming to hide behind, the dozen or so dancers really had to amp up their performance quality in order to make the scene more believable, which they accomplished with some encouragement from Lannin and artistic staff members Janet Waters and Deborah Weaver who also sat in during the rehearsal. For example, toward the end of the scene Lannin told the dancers, “You really need to explore your characters here. You once loved this man (Dracula). Do you still love him? Or are you angry about what he has done to you? Just really feel that pain and make this moment your own.”
The instructors also had no qualms about calling out corrections during the run-through, which the dancers eagerly took in. I attribute the dancers willingness to take corrections to Lannin’s nurturing teaching method, which seems to be especially effective for the baby brides, as she calls them, who are as young as 12. Lannin would calmly say things like “your body can not show the landing,” “Oh, that was not a pretty picture” and most importantly “you must be performing as you learn. We don’t have time to learn and then perform.”
Guest Artist Adrian Aguirre, a newcomer to the production, says he has really enjoyed working with Ms. Lannin in the studio. “Her critiques are always very constructive and uplifting. She also has a great sense of humor which I appreciate a lot.” He adds that he is the type of dancer that likes it when the music takes control of the movement and he found that to be true in this production, which he says made learning his role that much easier. Aquirre is a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts and is also the founder of the dance group, Uno Mas, which made its debut at Dallas DanceFest last month.
During rehearsal I also got to sit down with LBT Company Member Carley Greene who plays Aurelia, the love interest of both Marius and Dracula. Now a high school junior, Greene has been steadily rising through the ranks of LBT, but it wasn’t until last spring that she had her breakout moment in Lannin’s And The Things That Remain at LBT’s Director’s Choice performance. She came out the gate then with a dynamic solo showcasing impressive body control and a new level of artistic maturity that I had yet to see from her. I was glad to see that her confidence and joy of dancing are still present in her Dracula performance. As for how Greene feels about playing the lead character in the ballet she says, “It has been a great challenge for me to portray a lot of different emotions while also dancing and interacting with everyone on stage. Aurelia is so special to me because of the various emotions I need to express and because I get to dance to music that is so climactic and nuanced.”
Lannin made a wise decision years ago to record every performance so the dancers can reference it to learn their new roles as well as to refresh their memories of group dances such as the maypole dance in the first half and the brides of Dracula in the second. By watching the videos Greene says she is able to determine how much she has grown from year to year. “I am a completely different dancer today than I was last year,” Greene says. “I think every year I get more comfortable with the material, but this year particularly I feel I am able to express myself more freely.”
Artistic Director Kelly Lannin on LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s upcoming performance, Treasures: 30 Years of Dance, and the company’s influence on the Lewisville community.
Lewisville — “My goal has always been to build a ballet company that the City of Lewisville can be proud of,” says LakeCities Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kelly Lannin. Now with 30 years under its belt, a number of students going on to dance professionally, and a Nutcracker production that draws large crowds every year, LBT has surpassed even Lannin’s expectations. “I can’t believe it has been 30 years. Time just flew by.”
Originally from El Paso, Lannin trained at Ballet El Paso before attending Texas Woman’s University where she was the recipient of the Mary Agnes Murphy and the Anne Duggan Dance Scholarships. While at TWU Lannin performed with Dance Repertory Theatre and the DRT Touring Ensemble. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in dance in 1983, she moved to Lewisville to begin her teaching career. Lannin was a charter member of the Lewisville Dance Ensemble (1984) before taking over as artistic director in 1989, and changing the name to LakeCities Ballet Theatre.
The name change was done to give the company a more professional aire, according to Lannin. Instead of an ensemble she wanted to create a regional ballet company that would one day present multiple full-length ballets. A feat, she says, that took a lot of time and patience. “The first decade was about training the dancers and getting the community excited. The second decade we decided to contract with the Lewisville Lake Symphony for The Nutcracker and for the last decade we have been working hard to challenge our dancers in a variety of ballets and dance styles.” Today, Lannin has successfully directed and staged a number of productions, including The Nutcracker, Le Ballet de Dracula, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Coppelia, The Little Humpbacked Horse, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland,Peter and the Wolf and Carmina Burana, just to name a few.
And while Lannin says the dancers’ level of commitment hasn’t change over the years the level of competition within the ballet field continues to rise. “The level of training has just gotten better. Taking class three days a week isn’t cutting it anymore.” She adds that today’s ballet dancers also have to compete with dancers from other countries for those coveted ballet jobs. “These dancers from other countries like China, Japan, and Cuba are incredibly talented and have really upped the ante.”
Another challenge Lannin continues to face deals with funding. “Finding money and then figuring out where to spend it will always be a challenge. Thankfully we have a great parent base that we can always count on whenever we need volunteers. We have some parents who continue to volunteer even after their kids graduate and for me that is the biggest reward.”
Lannin says the arts scene in Lewisville has also come a long way over the last 30 years. “Before LBT Lewisville didn’t really have a dance community. I think there were two local dance studios and that’s it. We basically had to build an audience base from scratch.” The Greater Lewisville Arts Alliance, Lewisville Lake Symphony and LBT all came into being around the same time and continue to support one another today. “We remain very close as we are still run by the same group of people. And when the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater opened in 2011 it gave all of us a place to call home.”
It’s at the MCL Grand Theater where LBT will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary April 25-26, 2014 with a Spring Gala performance entitled Treasures: 30 Years of Dance. Lannin will present some of her favorite works from past years, including Carmina Burana, Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire and Satanella. The program also features new works by choreographers Shannon Beacham, Deborah Weaver and Shannon Tate as well as an alumni number.