Ballet fans are still buzzing over Fort Wayne Ballet’s fall performance in 2017. As part of their continuing relationship with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Fort Wayne Ballet staged a performance of “Light Rain,” which brought audiences to their feet and sent them onto social media to proclaim their admiration.
Thanks to that electrified response, the ballet is bringing back “Light Rain” for this fall’s performance, the first in their 62nd season. But joining that popular piece are two other performances. “Pas de Deesses,” choreographed by Robert Joffrey, is yet another piece, like “Light Rain,” which comes courtesy of the Gerald Arpino Foundation. But rounding out the evening is “Bolero,” a piece which fulfills a lifelong dream of the choreographer who is putting it on stage.
Tracy Tritz, a native of Wisconsin, knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a dancer and choreographer. She was so young when she began studying that only ballet and tap were available to her. As she developed and moved through the ballet curriculum, she added jazz to her repertoire. She left home for training programs at 16 and eventually studied for a time at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, and by that time she had added modern dance to her resume.
By the time she arrived in Fort Wayne in 2008, she had danced, taught, and choreographed in Los Angeles and Chicago, making appearances on television (including The Tonight Show) and in concerts and music videos. During her first two years with Fort Wayne Ballet, she taught on an hourly basis, eventually becoming full-time faculty in 2010. At that point she began adding more choreography to her duties at the ballet, and it was that which led Karen Gibbons-Brown to ask her about a piece for this fall’s performance.
“I was working on a piece that was performed in Love Notes in February, and there was a conversation about doing a piece for the fall performance,” Tritz said. “Ms. Karen asked about commissioning a piece to ‘Bolero’ and asked, ‘Would you like to do it?’ I’ve had the choreography bug since I was a kid, and I’ve loved this piece of music since I was a kid. It’s such a cool piece of music. There’s an intensity to it. It’s so simple in its phrasing, but there’s a complexity under that simple phrasing. It just builds the anticipation. I’m really excited about choreographing to this music. I’m terrified, but excited.”
Earlier in the summer, Tritz began putting that lifelong dream of choreographing “Bolero” into action, envisioning the dancers as the instruments that Ravel was hearing as he composed it.
“I’m interested in mythology and nature and relationships, and I like to work those into my choreography,” she said. “But I don’t like to say too much because I like to leave the work open to interpretation. It’ll be fairly abstract, pretty modern, a mixture of classical and contemporary ballet. And the dancers will be en pointe.”
In addition to her role as Ballet Mistress, Tritz is also the Director of Outreach, which allows her to take her passion for dance out into the community as a representative of Fort Wayne Ballet.
“Part of being a not-for-profit organization means being involved in the community, which means performances in the schools as well as lecture demonstration programs,” Tritz said. “We work with not only the schools, but with the YMCA where we’ll teach a few classes. We’re starting a program in Rome City where we’ll send a teacher, help get the kids in the proper attire, and introduce them to what we do. It’s really just an extension of what we do at the ballet.”
Coming up after the fall performance, Fort Wayne Ballet becomes immersed in its annual tradition, The Nutcracker, an important part of the area’s holiday celebration for decades. Tritz, who has performed in the show and has often been in charge of choreographing and overseeing rehearsals of the Battle Scene, says there will be an important addition to their outreach effort during The Nutcracker’s run in December.
“In addition to the in-theatre performances, where schools from around the area come to see the second act at the Arts United Center, on December 4 there will be a sensory-friendly performance of The Nutcracker for people who may be on the autism spectrum or have Down Syndrome or are hearing-impaired. We’ve received a grant so that we can invite those who might benefit from that kind of performance, and they can attend for free. Then if they need to leave or if anyone is uncomfortable, they aren’t out any money for having left early.”
Rounding out the Fort Wayne Ballet’s 2018-2019 season will be Cinderella, the Ballet’s annual collaboration with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. (The Philharmonic will also perform the opening weekend of The Nutcracker.)
As has been the case for many years, the Ballet’s spring performance is story-oriented. Often fairy tales, the ballet has done everything from Sleeping Beauty to Romeo & Juliet, and Coppelia to Swan Lake, in the spring, making its closing main stage production very family friendly.
With The Nutcracker and the spring show providing a bit less flexibility, it is definitely in the fall performance that the breadth of talent and versatility can best be appreciated. Tritz encourages those who may not enjoy classical dance to check out the amazing offerings in their performance this month.
“Not everyone is into the fairy tales or The Nutcracker,” she says. “If that’s the case, then the fall show is really for you. It shows that the ballet isn’t just about the little kids, but also about our professional dancers and how they can do classical, they can do contemporary. They can do everything.”