Tag Archive | "John Drew Theater"

Color, Melody and Clock Elves to Grace the Stage in Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s “Cinderella”

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Dancers perfect their style in a dress rehearsal at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School last week. Photo by Adam Baronella.

Dancers perfect their style in a dress rehearsal at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School last week. Photo by Adam Baranello.

By Tessa Raebeck

Since its completion in 1945, Sergei Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” suite has been performed hundreds of times across the globe, but rarely has it involved such cute grasshoppers.

This weekend, the Hampton Ballet Theatre School (HBTS) will revitalize the classic ballet, one of the famed Russian composer’s most celebrated compositions, in four performances at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater. About 70 dancers, from bright-eyed four-year-olds to seasoned adult professionals, will grace the stage in the lively and melodious spring ballet.

In its eighth year of bringing dance to the East End, HBTS is returning to “Cinderella,” last presented by the company in 2011, with a few new twists.

Ninth grader Rose Kelly will play the lead role of Cinderella this weekend. Photo by Adam Baronello.

Ninth grader Rose Kelly will play the lead role of Cinderella this weekend. Photo by Adam Baranello.

The original dancers have grown up and the choreography has evolved with them; this weekend will mark the first time many of the company’s ballerinas perform en pointe throughout the entire ballet. When en pointe, a female ballet dancer supports all of her body weight with the tips of her fully extended vertical feet. The dancer must train and practice for years to develop the strength and technique required to do so.

“My goal for this ballet,” said Sara Jo Strickland, executive director and choreographer of HBTS, “was to really develop the older dancers at the core of the ballet and they’ve really done their job. I’m really proud of them.”

Known for its jubilant music and lush scenery, “Cinderella” is one of the most celebrated compositions of Mr. Prokofiev, a Russian composer, pianist and conductor and one of the major composers of the 20th century. Written upon his return home after a long absence following the Russian Revolution, the ballet was first staged in 1940, set aside during the height of World War II, and completed in 1945, premiering at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

“The older dancers all had very important roles and they all worked so hard,” Ms. Strickland said Sunday during a short lull in rehearsal time. “They really pulled the level of the dancing from our Nutcracker up by two or three steps.”

A student of Ms. Strickland’s since she was just two, 15-year-old Rose Kelly will dance the lead role of Cinderella.

“It’s one of my first dancers to do something so big, so I’m very excited,” Ms. Strickland said.

Rose will perform two distinct characterizations of Cinderella: the ragged, abused servant girl worrying her way across the stage and the beautiful vision of grace yearned for by the prince.

Partnering for the first time—a major accomplishment for a ballet dancer of any age—Rose is dancing with guest artist Nick Peregrino, a professional dancer with Ballet Fleming in Philadelphia.

“This is a huge challenge for her,” said Ms. Strickland. “It’s a big step for her at this age in her career…She far exceeded my expectations, she just worked so hard to learn all these new things.”

Other veteran HBTS dancers performing en pointe include Abigail Hubbell, who will play the iconic Fairy Godmother, and her twin sister Caitlin, the Spring Fairy. The seasons are a pivotal part of Prokofiev’s adaptation and their corresponding fairies are all accomplished roles.

Winter fairies include Falon Attias, Grace Dreher and Vincenzo James Harty. Vincenzo, a young man who has been dancing with Ms. Strickland, Rose, Caitlin and Abigail for years, will also play the comical role of Jester along with the Hubbell sisters.

Falon, Jade Diskin, Grace, Rachel Grindle, Jillian Hear and Samantha Prince will dance as Summer Fairies and Kelsey Casey, Devon Friedman, Hudson Galardi-Troy, Katie Nordlinger and Emma Silvera are Fall Fairies.

A few of the Clock Elves get into character at a Hampton Ballet Theatre School dress rehearsal last week. Photo by Adam Baranello.

A few of the Clock Elves get into character at a Hampton Ballet Theatre School dress rehearsal last week. Photo by Adam Baranello.

The antics of Prunella and Esmerelda, the evil stepsisters played by Beatrice de Groot and Maggie Ryan, provide some comical—albeit evil—relief.

HBTS’ production features roles Prokofiev added to the traditional fairy tale, such as the grasshoppers and dragonflies, or the “little creatures of the forest,” as Ms. Strickland calls the group of four and five-year-olds who scurry across the stage.

Guest artists Adam and Gail Baranello, teachers at HBTS who also own A&G Dance Company, will play Cinderella’s father and evil stepmother.

During the second act, the royal ball where Cinderella first catches the prince’s eye, the ballet evolves from the comic first act into a romantic presentation, said Ms. Strickland.

“I think people will be very excited and surprised because if you have followed us for a long time and watched the girls grow up, you’re really going to see the difference in this production,” Ms. Strickland said.

The Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s production of “Cinderella” is Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Advanced tickets are $20 for children under 12 and $25 for adults. Tickets on the performance days are $25 for children under 12 and $30 for adults. To reserve tickets, call 888-933-4287 or visit hamptonballettheatreschool.com. For more information, call 237-4810 or email hbtstickets@gmail.com.

Alec Baldwin to Host “Vertigo” Screening at Guild Hall

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Courtesy of Guild Hall.

Courtesy of Guild Hall.

By Tessa Raebeck

Presented by the Hamptons International Film Festival in cooperation with Guild Hall, Alec Baldwin will host a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Vertigo” Saturday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall.

The timing is in honor of “Vertigo” usurping “Citizen Kane” for the top spot on the British Film Institute’s ranking of “The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time,” released every ten years in its film journal, Sight & Sound.

With the most survey participants yet, the 2013 list was dictated by the votes of 846 critics, programmers, academics and film distributors. Since 1962, “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles’ debut 1941 film that is widely recognized as one of – if not the – most influential films ever, has reigned supreme at the top of the list. This year, “Vertigo” seized the top spot with 191 votes, ending the 50-year reign of “Citizen Kane” by 34 votes.

The 45th film by suspense legend Alfred Hitchcock, “Vertigo” stars Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in a mysterious look at romance, paranoia and obsession set in San Francisco. Released in 1958, the twists, turns and recurrent Hitchcock themes continue to resonate with film critics and novice audiences alike 56 years later.

Alec Baldwin will present the film and host the evening. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call 324.0806.

JDTLab Brings “The Family Room” to Guild Hall

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Playwright John J. Mullen (courtesy of Guild Hall).

Playwright John J. Mullen (courtesy of Guild Hall).

By Tessa Raebeck

As part of the JDTLab program, Guild Hall of East Hampton presents a free staged reading of “The Family Room,” a new play by first time playwright and longtime East Hampton resident John J. Mullen.

Steve Hamilton directs the play and also performs alongside Joseph Brondo, Lydia Franco Hodges, Ellen J. Myers and Julie King.

The play, which will be shown February 11, explores the complications of familial relationships and the power of childhood experiences, focusing on the relationship between siblings struggling to find forgiveness and reconciliation. Two sisters and a brother have been estranged for 30 years and are reunited in a hospital waiting room as their mother lies dying in the Intensive Care Unit.

Director and Actor Steve Hamilton (courtesy of Guild Hall).

Director and Actor Steve Hamilton (courtesy of Guild Hall).

“The Family Room” is “funny and hard-hitting,” according to Hamilton, who acted alongside Alec Baldwin on the John Drew stage at Guild Hall in “Equus” in 2010. Also serving as Mullen’s script coach for the play, Hamilton has worked on various projects in New York City and on the East End as an actor, director and producer. Most recently, he directed “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” which opened at John Drew in 2013.

The JDTLab program at Guild Hall provides “actively-engaged performing artists” with resources and guidance during the creative process.  Artists are selected to present a one-night showcase in collaboration with the Guild Hall team that is presented at John Drew free of charge.

The staged reading of “The Family Room” will be presented Tuesday, February 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Drew Theater in the Dina Merrill Pavilion at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For more information, call 631.324.0806 or visit GuildHall.org

Robert Wilson’s Dance for a Friend

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web kool7

By Mariana Levine

This Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. Guild Hall will be presenting “KOOL – Dancing in my Mind” a multimedia dance event honoring the work of Japanese dancer and choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi. The performance will include music composed by David Bryne, film footage by Richard Rutkowski and Robert Wilson, and new dances by Jonah Bokaer and Illenk Gentile.

 “KOOL”, an English translation of the name Suzushi, was created by avant-garde theater pioneer Robert Wilson in partnership with Carla Blank, both of whom were long-time friends and collaborators of Hanayagi. The project came about when Wilson, who had worked with Hanayagi on over 20 performances starting in the 1980s, realized somehow along the way that he had lost touch with her, and wanted to reconnect and work with her again. On a trip through Japan he tracked her down only to learn she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was living in a nursing home where she barely moved or spoke.

“I’m dancing in my mind”, the other half of the performance’s title, were the words whispered to Wilson by Hanayagi — her first words spoken in a long time — in response to Wilson’s request “remember, I want to work with you again.”

Jorn Weisbrodt, Creative Director of the Bryd Hoffman Watermill Foundation explains, “After this trip Mr. Wilson wanted to do something for her or with her but realized she probably couldn’t do it herself. So he went back a second time and filmed her. It is a really beautiful film.”

Thereby Wilson was able to include her visual presence in the presentation as well as having live dancers perform a collage of her choreography.

The filming, Weisbrodt relates, wasn’t easy as the family had to agree to it, something that was difficult to negotiate since Japanese tradition dictates suffering should remain private and within the immediate family. However, in the end the family agreed to allow it, and now it is part of the tribute to her life and work, Weisbrodt continued.

He also recalls when Wilson was filming Hanayagi in Japan, he would make simple gestures that she was able to repeat, and that she seemed to recall something of her life through the movements. A certain joy came back to her expression with the movements, Weisbrodt recounts.

Blank speaks with tears in her eyes when she says Hanayagi would want her whole life presented as such since, “she believed, as I do too, that life and dance are one. Some people are worried about showing her in her present state, but there is so much to celebrate, and Wilson and I want to celebrate this big energy she gave us to continue her work.” She mentions that she has known and worked with Hanayagi since the early 1960s, when both women lived and worked in New York City.

Blank had also wanted to create something that would call attention to her friend’s influence on dance and movement internationally. Blank notes that Hanayagi gave movement workshops through the world including the Paris Opera Ballet, and worked with Opera Star Jesse Norman on her gesture language.

 “For some reason Suzushi wasn’t as much of a presence, her name wasn’t as recognizable as perhaps Robert Wilson’s, and yet she was really the point of contact in terms of combining Japanese traditions with modern movement.” Therefore Blank was thrilled when Wilson contacted her to create “KOOL”. The two had only met once before, but were aware of each other’s collaborations with Hanayagi. The end result, a collaborative, multi-media project was not only a fitting tribute to their colleague’s work but also reflects Blank and Wilson’s preferred methods of working.

Blank recalls that Hanayagi was brave to break from the traditional roles imposed on Japanese women, even artists and dancers, back in the 1950s. Her break with tradition started when she begun combining the traditional Japanese dance she had painstakingly learned with the Modern Dance she was becoming familiar with at her college. “Starting around 1957-1958 she always performed using both classical and modern dance vocabularies.”

It was a program with New York’s Japan Society that finally brought her to the United States were she gave numerous dance workshops and created a lot of movement pieces alone or often in collaboration with others such as fellow immigrant Yoko Ono. She left New York City in 1969 in order to give birth to and raise her son in Japan, according to Blank. Thereafter she returned to the United States numerous times to work on several projects with Robert Wilson among others.

The “Performance Portrait” of Hanayagi was first presented at the Guggenheim this past April. Guild Hall, who co-produced the program with the Guggenheim and Wilson, will present a slightly evolved performance, as Weisbrodt notes, “Mr. Wilson will be rehearsing the dancers himself this week so he’ll probably be making some changes to the program.”

Blank, who is also rehearsing the group, agreed that the performance might change organically this week. The six member dance company for “KOOL” includes dancers Sally Gross and Meg Harper, both of whom have been coming out to the East End for many summers, as well as CC Chang, Yuki Kawashisa, Jonah Bokaer, and Illenk Gentile. Several of the dancers had worked with the late Merce Cunningham as well.