ON STAGE: Sarah Drake (center) in an earlier spring performance of Westside Ballet’s dances featuring Faust. (Photo courtesy Todd Lechtick)

ON STAGE: Sarah Drake (center) in an earlier spring performance of Westside Ballet’s dances featuring Faust. (Photo courtesy Todd Lechtick)

SMC — Local dancers will present a unique ballet experience on May 18 at the Westside Ballet of Santa Monica’s spring performance.

The show will have two parts, one a modern dance and a selection of dances from “Sleeping Beauty.” Organizers said the juxtaposition of the class and new dances will help audiences track the evolution of the art form.

Martine Harley, artistic director for Westside Ballet, said the excerpt of “Sleeping Beauty” will appeal to audiences of all ages regardless of their past knowledge of ballet.

“For an audience that is not familiar with ballet per se, [this] is always popular,” she said. “You will relate to it as a ballet, it has the same fairy tale qualities that a Walt Disney movie might have. It’s incredibly beautiful.”

Organizers said the show was first performed in 1890 and the local show will feature all the popular characters including Puss ‘n Boots and The White Cat, Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, The Bluebird and Princess Florine, numerous fairy solos, Westside’s youngest dancers in charming ensembles, and, of course, Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund in the Grand Pas de Deux.

“The challenge in contemporary dance is in doing all the steps to make the dancing look totally free, yet doing it in such a way that maintains your technique,” said Lucia Connolly, who dances Princess Aurora. “I love dancing classically not just because of the challenge it poses, but also when you are able to make a classical piece clean and fluid, it really is the most beautiful thing in the world.”

While the show is accessible to anyone, Harley said it has enough depth to appeal to an audience with knowledge of dance, as the performance will highlight the ways modern dance connects to the classical performances.

“People will be able to see from watching the first half of the program how even in the contemporary ballets that we’re presenting, the choreography has the similar themes as the ballets of old, the classical ballets that have endured for centuries, even contemporary ballets will pay homage to the classical ballets.”

She said the show was specifically structured to start with the modern and end with the classical to showcase the crowd pleasing qualities of the classic show.

“All of these ballets have beautiful classical music as their basis,” she said in a statement. “It will be an incredible auditory as well as visual delight for our audiences.”

Part of the combined experience will be watching a new addition to the Westside’s repertoire of Ben Stevenson’s pas de deux prelude, set to music of Rachmaninoff.

Harley danced for Stevenson during her time as a professional dancer and said the piece is unique because it features a live piano performance alongside the dancers.

“For the dancers and the audience it really enhances the experience,” she said. “The challenge is that the dancers have to be listening very carefully because the tempo might change very so slightly from performance to performance so they have to be especially sensitive to the live piano as opposed to a recording.”

She said dancers have to connect to the piece in a deeper way when performing with live music and in doing so, they can bring an additional level of passion to the show.

“This is a very coveted pas de deux,” she said. “Ben chose me to dance it and I taught it to subsequent generations at Houston Ballet. Now he’s trusted me to stage it for Westside Ballet, so that is very special to me.”

She said the Santa Monica community has always been very supportive of the ballet over its 40 year history here.

“(The community) really appreciates the fact that they have their own home grown classical company,” she said. “Even though the dancers are pre-professional, they are trained to a professional level and our audiences often remark how professional our dancers are.”

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica’s 2014 spring performance will be presented on Sunday, May 18, at The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center. Performances are at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.westsideballet.com or from the box office one hour prior to the show.

 

matt@smdp.com

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