WEST HARTFORD — Part two of Ballet Theatre Company’s fall digital season, “Up Close: Flashes,” which premiered on Nov. 28, will be available to stream through midnight, Dec. 4, according to an email from BTC. “Flashes” is a compilation of five short solos set to music by different 1960s artists created in collaboration with BTC’s Artistic Director Stephanie Dattellas and Season Dancers. Each piece highlights struggles of the past and present including race, gender, relationships, and longing for human connections. BTC’s local Season Dancers Emilee Alexander, Joseph Beltre, Lea-Janell Mitchell, and Emily Silva will each be featured in the digital show, as well as Jo-ann Burke of Syracuse City Ballet, who has been living in her hometown of Wethersfield, since the New York State ballet company announced that its season was canceled.
BTC is looking at an entire year off from the main stage. The more quantifiable losses, such as ticket revenue and studio time, were calculable as news spread about the COVID-19 pandemic. What hasn’t been so easy to calculate, has been the loss of artistry and self-expression within the community. Dattellas, was one of the many who watched as ballet companies in major cities around the country announced canceled performance seasons. However, Dattellas knew that performing arts could not just stop.
She and BTC’s small but mighty group of talented artists came together to produce a digital fall performance season premiering its first of two parts, “Autumn Aurora.” With a digital presentation, the West Hartford company was able to reach the screens of many households from coast to coast and was well received by patrons. Jill Hoskins from Los Angeles tuned in and said “The dancers, Vivaldi’s ‘Autumn Aurora,’ and the choreography and videography brought a chilly and still autumn landscape to life. As if to say, even a pandemic will not isolate us, the masked dancers flowed through the meadow in near-constant connection with it and with one another.”
Finding an outlet for artistic freedom in choreographing “Autumn Aurora,” Dattellas saw part two of the digital season as an opportunity to explore the local professionals’ organically created movement. She and each dancer worked together to create a solo using soulful favorites from famous 1960s artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Ray Orbison.
Joseph Beltre, a dancer and faculty member at Ballet Theatre Company, will be featured performing a solo to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Going to Come.” When reflecting on the creative process, he says, “Having the opportunity to choreograph and create again was exhilarating. I find solace in my craft and am grateful for the chance to do so during these uncertain times.”
Lea-Janell Mitchell, also a dancer and faculty member, took the opportunity as a personal mission to keep the arts alive. “Whether I’m dancing or not dancing, able to or not able to, pandemic or no pandemic, I need to make sure the art of ballet doesn’t die.” For Mitchell, coming back to a life in the studio felt like a long-awaited homecoming. She said, “Being in the studio physically with other dancers, with your hand on a ballet barre, feels like home — and that sounds cliche, but it’s more true now than ever because of the pandemic.” Mitchell will perform her solo to Ella Fitzgerald’s “I’m Confessing that I Love You.”
Emilee Alexander, a new member of BTC this season, will be featured performing a solo to Ray Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” When asked about her experience, Alexander admits to being a little intimidated. “This type of collaboration in the creation process was something new to me — as I listened to the music and found a sort of story to tell within it, it became easier.” In the end, she confesses that the piece “has definitely become one of my favorites that I have performed.”
Dattellas finds this project unique because of its different voices, both vocally and visually. “It really highlights each dancer’s aesthetic and style. The audience will really get a sense of who the performers are and, in addition, see their emotional response.” Dattellas has seen a shift in the dance world. Throughout the process she says she was impressed with the eagerness of the dancers. “I felt a sense of investment, and could see their commitment to the process because we’ve all experienced what it’s like for it to be ripped from under us.”
Tickets for Up Close: Flashes are $15 per household (based on IP address). Ticket holders will have access to the digital presentation from until midnight on Friday, Dec. 4. BTC’s entire digital fall season performance was filmed and edited by Peter Cofrancesco of Creation Dream Video. To purchase tickets, visit www.dancebtc.org/up-close
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