Performing Arts

Annual summer dance concert will feature three ballets

Dancers Michele Gifford (as Desdemona) and Shea Johnson (as the Moor) in Ballet Concerto’s Othello.
Dancers Michele Gifford (as Desdemona) and Shea Johnson (as the Moor) in Ballet Concerto’s Othello.

In 2015, choreographer Elise Lavallee created her first 25-minute ballet for Ballet Concerto’s annual Summer Dance Concert.

Margo Dean, the company’s founder, didn’t ask Lavallee to make a light-hearted ballet, but after Dean saw her work, called Ouroboros, she told the budding choreographer, “I thought you were going to do something fun,” Lavallee remembers, laughing.

So this year, for the 35th annual Summer Dance Concert, Lavallee’s second ballet is called Retro-Motion, and it’s decidedly “fun.”

The dancers will pass through a doorway and enter a 1920s speakeasy, where they add era-appropriate costumes and become gangsters, showgirls and other characters, mixing the social dance styles of that era, such as the Charleston, with Lavallee’s style of ballet meets Broadway meets street dance.

“What I know most is Broadway and jazz,” says Lavallee, who trained at Dean’s School of Ballet and who has choreographed or assistant-choreographed musicals for Casa Mañana, Dallas Theater Center, University of Texas at Arlington and other local organizations.

“I’m trying to blend that with the ballet, and a little bit of b-boy/breakdancing, too,” she says. “I’m all about crossing those lines. Showing the 1920s movement and how it changes over time.”

The work, using covers of modern songs in a 1920s style — many from the soundtrack to the recent remake of The Great Gatsby, such as Emeli Sandé and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra’s version of Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love — are part of a program that includes Webster Dean’s restaging of Irish Suite by choreographer Dennis Spaight, who worked with Ballet Concerto and died in 1993.

The third work is another world premiere, a setting of Shakespeare’s Othello by frequent Ballet Concerto collaborator Luis Montero.

Montero, a Spaniard who works in flamenco and ballet, has choreographed several works from dramatic literature before, including Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba and Blood Wedding, and Euripides’ Medea, but this is his first foray into Shakespeare.

In Othello, guest artist Shea Johnson plays the Moor, and former Texas Ballet Theater principal dancer Michele Gifford is Desdemona, and will be making her retirement performance.

Montero’s 25-minute version of the play about jealousy and revenge boils the action down to six characters. The other four are Emilia, Cassio, Bianca and, of course, the best villain in Shakespeare, Iago.

“Through dance and through facial expressions, you have to portray how evil and nasty Iago is,” Montero says. “All the jumps have to be different, and he has to have more hate in his movement and his body.”

The only taste of flamenco will come early, in the wedding of Othello and Desdemona, and from there it’s all about betrayal, the handkerchief and rage.

“I like drama because the audience can go into the play and wonder what is going to happen next,” Montero says. “You put this in a way where the audience has to concentrate and go into the play. It’s not the same as with a happy ballet.”

For that, we have Lavallee.

Summer Dance Concert

  • 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday
  • Trinity Park Pavilion, 2300 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth
  • Free lawn seating, $35 reserved seating
  • 817-738-7915; www.balletconcerto.com
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