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Alain Barker
IU Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
IU Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2008

IU Ballet Theater brings audiences a night at the opera (at the ballet)

March 6, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Ballet Department's origins as a means of supplying operas with dancers inspired Michael Vernon, chair of the IU Jacobs School's Ballet Department, to offer ballet audiences "A Night at the Opera (at the Ballet)."

On March 21 and 22, dancers will perform to ballet music from beloved operas by Gounod, Rossini, Handel and Meyerbeer. Choreography by ballet legends George Balanchine and Frederick Ashton will be featured in addition to new work by acclaimed choreographer IU Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy and a pas de deux by visiting dancer Sasha Janes, principal dancer for North Carolina Dance Theatre.

Fall Ballet

The IU Jacobs School's Ballet Department presents "A Night at the Opera (at the Ballet)" March 21 and 22.

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Vernon said he was inspired by considering that the IU Ballet Department originally came into existence to serve the Opera Department.

"The reason we have a ballet department is because we have an opera department," he said. "They needed dancers for the operas, so this department was founded to train dancers in a university setting. This evening will give tribute to that history."

The evening will offer a range of styles, from the classical elegance of Ashton's Les Patineurs to the athletic physicality of Janes' choreography. The music, as always, will also be performed live, including a vocal performance by IU student and mezzo-soprano Amanda Russo.

Walpurgisnacht Ballet, choreographed by Balanchine to the ballet from Charles Gounod's Faust, will feature an abstract neoclassical take on romance. "The partnering is more up-to-date, rather than old fashioned and formal. Instead of romance in an old opera, it's more like Audrey Hepburn," Vernon said.

The dance, like the music, will be "vibrant and energetic," he said. "Balanchine makes it so entertaining for the audience by his use of space. The dancers change formation, and the audience doesn't even realize it. His use of people and the stage is genius."

Verdy's Inouļ Rossini will feature 27 dancers seeming to embody the music of Gioacchino Rossini's Otello. "My best thing is that you can really see the music," Verdy said. "It's really all about bella musica and bella danza."

The French word "inouļ," meaning "unheard of" and "marvelous," refers to the miraculous acquisition of the score. "There is absolutely no score for this opera to be found in the world at this time," Verdy said. In desperation, she appealed to Keiko Endo, a musician who specializes in converting recordings into sheet music.

"She had a lot of work at that moment, but she was able to deliver the piano score for our rehearsal pianist," Verdy said. "The orchestration came at the beginning of February, just in time."

Lascia La Spina, Cogli La Rosa, performed and choreographed by North Carolina Dance Theatre principal dancer Sasha Janes, is a pas de deux of considerable difficulty set to Frideric Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Verdy called it "acrobatic" and "a gem." Janes created the piece for himself and his frequent dance partner Rebecca Carmazzi, who will perform it with him in Bloomington. Mezzo-soprano Amanda Russo will be singing during this performance.

Ashton's Les Patineurs depicts skaters enjoying a graceful glide across the ice. The music is from two operas from Giacomo Meyerbeer, Le Prophete and Robert Le Diable. The choreography dates back to the 1930s.

"It's like a scene from the past," Vernon said. "It's one of those ballets that is timeless."

Ashton was the director of the Royal Ballet in London and helped to establish its signature style. The piece captures that timeless elegance as the movement across the ice is transposed onto the stage.

The evening is particularly suited to family audiences, Vernon said, due to its consistently sunny disposition. "It's smiles all the way through," he said. "There is not a dark moment in the program. I think it will be great after a long winter."

The ballet will be presented in the Musical Arts Center at 8 p.m. on March 21 and 22.

Tickets may be purchased at the Musical Arts Center Box Office (Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) or by phone through Ticketmaster at 812-333-9955.

Click here for the IU Ballet Theater Web site: