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A century of steps: Dancers to present evolution of ballet, moving from classical to contemporary

April 17, 2012
Bryan Connor and Annie Mushrush perform in the Ballet Section of the classical ballet, “Raymonda,” in the final performance of the School of Theatre and Dance 2011-2012 season, “Siecle de Ballet.”

Bryan Connor and Annie Mushrush perform in the Ballet Section of the classical ballet, “Raymonda,” in the final performance of the School of Theatre and Dance 2011-2012 season, “Siecle de Ballet.”

The precision of classical ballet meets the fluidity of contemporary dance in the final 2012-2013 season production by the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance.

NIU SoTD will present “Siècle de Ballet” from Thursday, April 26, through Sunday, April 29, in the Stevens Building O’Connell Theatre.

“Siècle de Ballet,” French for “a hundred years of ballet,” showcases dance’s transformation by contrasting classic and modern ballets.

Performed first, the classical ballet, “Raymonda,” presents a romantic storyline about a woman attempting to reunite with her lover. This piece, presented in excerpts, is restaged by NIU faculty Judith Chitwood from the original choreography by Marius Petipa, famed for his iconic ballets, “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake.”

The second more modern ballet is “Sunrise in the Quantum,” which also explores love and beauty, but in a more abstract way. Brian Carey Chung, the show’s choreographer and director, describes a scene in which butterflies drift over a devastated landscape.

“The butterflies are lovers,” Chung says, explaining his desire to show beauty in unexpected places.

“Raymonda” presents everything expected in a traditional ballet, from tutus to pointe dancers and partnering. Each dancer’s form is aesthetically beautiful and exact, according to Chung, with an emphasis on clear, sculpted lines.

Form and movement in “Sunrise in the Quantum,” however, draw inspiration from natural components, like molecules and animals. For example, Chung compares unison in his piece to that of a school of fish or flock of geese. While the geese are not strictly identical, they all move with an organic regularity, he says.

Mary Bajek, a dancer in both pieces, says the show provides a way to experience two very different, but related, visions of ballet. “You get a taste of both the classical and the more contemporary ballet forms,” Bajek says.

“Siècle de Ballet” will stage in the Stevens Building O’Connell Theatre on the DeKalb campus. Weeknight and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

Tickets for “Siècle de Ballet” and more information about the production are available online or through the SoTD box office, open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Contact the box office at (815) 753-1600 or [email protected].