Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Modern ballet event much more than classical pieces


Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 16, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

It’s easy when thinking about a ballet company or an orchestra to think of them only performing the classics. But as our local arts organizations continue to prove, they have much more to offer than that.

Fans of Fort Wayne Ballet have seen some unique performances in recent years. As they close their 2018-19 season, they have another couple of tricks up their sleeve.

Performances in Four Studios

Progressions, an eclectic mix of choreography and dance, will lead the audience through a series of performances spread out among the ballet’s four studios in the Auer Center for Arts & Culture, something Fort Wayne Ballet’s artistic director Karen Gibbons-Brown calls “Galleries of Dance.”

“Each studio will have different presentations with multiple presentations in each studio,” she said. “These pieces are primarily dancer driven because they have more to say than we have them say during our regular season. This is their opportunity to say what they want to say through choreography and costuming. This is a chance for them to explore their own point of view, and I’m excited to see what they come up with.”

The dancers contributing pieces for Progressions — Tracy Tritz, David Ingram, Stephen Blood, Amber Bailey, Emily Hulbert, Babette Lam, Saki Morimoto, Madison Cafaro, Jocelyn Magons, and Rena Bernardini — have a varying level of experience with choreography. The opportunity to create pieces for Progressions helps expand upon their abilities as they also continue to grow as dancers.

Ingram, the prodigal son of Fort Wayne Ballet, is coming to town specifically to work with the ballet again.

Having first come to town in 1998 to study with Gibbons-Brown, he left to attend Butler University, danced for both Louisville Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet), returning to join the faculty at Fort Wayne Ballet 2011-2016. Having taught at East Carolina University for the last three years, he returns to Indiana this summer to teach at Butler. But he remains a fixture for fans of Fort Wayne Ballet.

“David’s choreography is always intriguing,” Gibbons-Brown said. “It’s been fun to see how his life has evolved through his choreography. Our students find their successes in different ways, and he has definitely found his in dance.”

She added, “David has asked me to get packing peanuts and weather balloons.”

Such a request might seem odd to those who have never worked with Ingram, but there’s always a method to his madness.

“I want to work with the audience’s perception of gravity,” said Ingram, avoiding any spoilers. “Our greatest partner is gravity, and the packing peanuts will act as an alterable projection surface in a nice frame, and it becomes overlaid with a film which is taken away as the dancer moves.”

Freedom to move

Ingram describes the concept of Progressions as a throwback to his youth in some ways.

“I like the system of people walking from place to place. It’s kind of like theater hopping when I was young. You go to one movie then you sneak into another theater to see another one. But it’s also like an art museum where you have the freedom to spend as much time with one piece as you like. If someone doesn’t like something, they can leave and then you know that if they’re there, they want to be there.”

Like Ingram, Tritz is a veteran of Fort Wayne Ballet and has choreographed many pieces over the years including a performance to Ravel’s Bolero that was a huge hit with audiences of the fall performance and was reprised at the recent Indiana Dance Festival.

For Progressions, she has set her piece to a song very familiar to classic rock fans.

“I found a very cool instrumental version of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ that I knew I wanted to use,” she said. “It’s as raw and edgy as the actual stories of the House of the Rising Sun, so I just decided to tell one of those. I’m presenting the version of a gambling, abusive man whose family is tired of his actions, and he ultimately meets his demise at their house. These events are supposedly what gave the house the name ‘The House of the Rising Sun.’ It’s definitely an intense piece, and the dancers have done a really outstanding job bringing the gritty story to life.

“I am also really excited to be collaborating with Fernando Tarango on this. He will set up the events of the piece by playing the original version by the Animals while speaking the poem that the songs are based off of.”

Pulling together 10 pieces from a diverse cast of choreographers is not something that can be done in a couple weeks. Gibbons-Brown begins talking to the dancers early on to see who might be interested and what they have in mind.

“I talk to them about concepts for choreography all year,” she said. “I ask them to present a libretto, and if a piece of music has words, we talk about whether those lyrics will be a problem for any members of the audience. We want to make sure it’s relatively clean and appropriate. But the music is all over the place. There are many different styles of music represented.”

BUsy season for Ballet

While it may seem the ballet season is winding down, things are actually very busy at Fort Wayne Ballet.

The company continues their training with American Ballet Theatre with Raymond Lukens visiting the ballet later this month. Then there will be their annual Summer Intensive training, followed by their summer camps and classes. And there’s still one more performance on the docket, one which dance fans have learned to look forward to every summer.

Begun about a dozen years ago, Fort Wayne Ballet, Too has provided the community a chance to see a performance free of charge.

“It’s really a thank you to our community,” Gibbons-Brown said. “It’s a way to show our appreciation for their many years of support.”

Ingram is also at the helm for Fort Wayne Ballet, Too, and this year they provided him a twist, soliciting votes for what piece of music he uses to create his choreography. Those who attend will find out which piece won, but Ingram said that the process means the audience is already invested in the performance.

“They’re already responding to the music,” he said. “Of course that also means that it’s like they all read the book, and now I’m going to make the movie that isn’t as good as the book.”

The performance will take place on Friday, May 24, beginning at 7:30 p.m., and it will move from Freimann Square to the Arts United Center plaza. After overseeing Fort Wayne Ballet, Too for all these years, Ingram is grateful that he can keep coming back to his dance home and share what he loves with this community.

“I cannot believe and am most humble that I keep getting the chance to do this, and I’m so grateful to Karen, the ballet, and Fort Wayne for being so supportive of this.”

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