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Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A new "Swan Lake" centerpiece of IU Ballet Theater's Spring Ballet

WHAT: "Variations on a Russian Theme" by IU Ballet Theater
WHERE: Musical Arts Center, 1201 E. Third St.
WHEN: March 27 and 28, 8 p.m.
TICKETS: Adults $12-20, Students $8-16

March 3, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In its 2008-2009 season finale, Indiana University Ballet Theater presents "Variations on a Russian Theme," with an updated version of the classical ballet Swan Lake and a world premiere by Matthew Neenan, March 27 and 28 at the Musical Arts Center.

The new version of the time-honored Swan Lake, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, has been staged by guest ballerina and choreographer Cynthia Gregory and IU Ballet Department Chair Michael Vernon. While including all of the classic ballet's major sections -- the famous waltzes, the White Swan pas de deux and the Black Swan pas de deux (representing dual sides of the principal characters) and the original corps de ballet dances that make Swan Lake so unique -- the piece will last about half the length of a normal production.

The distilled version, with 41 dancers (compared with the cast of 100 that normally perform Swan Lake) "works well for the available resources at IU as well as my own artistic sensibilities," says Vernon. "It's the full story as we know it, encapsulated. Today, we need to present classics in a way a modern day audience can relate to."

The world premiere performance of My Eyes Opened by visiting choreographer Matthew Neenan uses the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and will be conducted by Jeff Cook. Neenan, a choreographer-in-residence at the Pennsylvania Ballet, has spent time recently in Bloomington for week-long residencies to prepare the work. He returns for the premiere to add finishing touches.

"Shostakovich is very expansive in his orchestral writing, which has given me an opportunity to work with a relatively large cast," said Neenan. "It's great to work with such young and ambitious dancers. Their energy works well with the concept of the piece, which is all about awakening . . . an abstract meditation on life."

Using guest choreographers is especially important for student dancers, said Vernon, who taught Neenan while he studied at the School of American Ballet. "Every choreographer works differently, so it's important for our dancers to learn to work with different people. For this show, I was also looking for a relatively young, undiscovered choreographer," Vernon said. "Matthew is young enough that he can still relate to the dancers but experienced enough that he can still teach them something, too."

Vernon said that while the set for Swan Lake will be rather opulent, the set for My Eyes Wide Opened will be stark, with minimal costumes.

The spring ballet production, "Variations on a Russian Theme," will be dedicated to Marina Svetlova, who chaired the IU Ballet Department from 1970 until her retirement in 1992. She passed away Feb. 11 in her Bloomington home at age 86.

About Marina Svetlova

Marina Svetlova was born May 3, 1922, in France. She was educated at Brevet Superieur in Paris, France, and later became a part-time professor of ballet at IU in the spring of 1970. She chaired IU's Ballet Department from August 1970 until her retirement in May 1992. In June 1992, she was honored with the title Professor Emeritus of Music.

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