Although the 2020-21 season has been different from what Fort Wayne Ballet had planned, the very fact that they’ve had any productions at all is somewhat miraculous.
The start of the season was delayed somewhat to allow for whatever adaptations needed to take place to keep the dancers dancing. And if there’s anything fans of the ballet have come to expect of the dancers and administrators of the organization, it’s flexibility.
With their Valentine’s Day timed show, Love Notes, Fort Wayne Ballet typically uses the intimate setting of the ArtsLab which is housed in the same building as the ballet’s studios.
With general seating and specially reserved tables for two, the performances have been a perfect way to celebrate the holiday.
With seating capacities still limited — and a few of the dancers themselves affected by COVID and quarantine — Karen Gibbons-Brown, artistic director of Fort Wayne Ballet, made some adjustments to the rehearsals and performances.
“The show will be only pas de deux, which are dances for two,” she said. “That way we can keep the dancers in pods so they only dance with each other to limit exposure.
“The show will be all virtual and will take place at the Masonic Temple in the grand ballroom. We had chosen the venue in the hopes that the larger space might allow us to have both live and virtual performances, but we decided that virtual was the way to go.”
Love Notes will combine pieces performed in the past as well as new ones choreographed especially for this performance.
But even pieces that have been done before will have a new energy.
“While we’ve changed the venue and made it virtual, we haven’t changed the intention,” Gibbons-Brown said. “We haven’t changed what we hope to present. Even pieces that have been performed before, by using different dancers with the choreographers, it changes the piece. When choreographers and répétiteurs work with dancers, it’s a new voice for both of them, and they respond in a different way kinetically.”
Tracy Tritz, ballet mistress and director of outreach for Fort Wayne Ballet, is choreographing two of the pieces performed in Love Notes.
Having already received acclaim for her world premiere of Dracula in the fall, Tritz brings a new piece as well as one which has been staged before.
“The new piece is ‘Contrast’ set to the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which I’m looking to create into a full-length short ballet,” Tritz said. “This will be a teaser.
“The other piece is ‘Romance,’ which is a movement from my larger ballet Tangled Webs, originally choreographed in 2017. We’ve actually used that pas de deux as a stand alone piece for several performances in various settings.
“It’s meant to be done in intimate settings, so it adapts well. It will involve an original dancer and a new dancer, so I’m excited to see a different chemistry with the two that I’ve chosen.
“The two pieces are starkly different, on almost every level,” she continued.
“It will be very interesting to present them in the same performance and see what the audience takes from each.”
One advantage to the virtual performances is availability.
While Love Notes usually has three performances in one weekend, ticket buyers will be able to stream the show any time between Saturday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 21, at 11:59 p.m.
Pas de deux
In addition to the two Tritz pieces, the production will include pas de deux from Spartacus, Spring Waters, Don Quixote, and The Sleeping Beauty.
The Sleeping Beauty was intended to be the ballet’s spring production, in their annual collaboration with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. But with the Philharmonic quiet and no venue adequate the provide the audience, the ballet has had to pivot again.
“We’re doing a Tchaikovsky celebration this March, probably around spring break,” Gibbons-Brown said. “We’ll include two sections from The Nutcracker, a piece from Swan Lake, and Act III from The Sleeping Beauty. Of course we all have to be ready to adapt if things change.
“With Love Notes, I always love the intimacy of that place and the small tables which are perfect for that time of year. But we’re approaching this the same way artistically that we always do, as intensely as any we’ve ever done.”
As she steers the Fort Wayne Ballet ship through waters never before navigated in her almost 23 years as its director, Gibbons-Brown is proud to have accomplished as much as they have in the face of adversity.
“I’m just grateful that I’m still working,” she said. “There are so many ballet companies that are not. Everybody misses live audiences, but we needed to keep everyone healthy. All of the choreographers and répétiteurs who were prepared to work with us this year are all on board for next year when we celebrate our 65th anniversary. So that’ll be special, and hopefully by then we can put all of this behind us.”
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