Columbia Ballet Collaborative's spring performance will treat viewers to a large wooden box acting as a projector, a dance on gun control, and an excerpt from George Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments."
The show will bring together eight works—seven original works from different choreographers, plus the Balanchine piece on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Traditionally, the show features six performances, four choreographed by professionals, and two by students and CBC members. But this year's show is a more extensive affair, reflecting the growth of the now six-year-old dance group.
The group will perform in Miller Theatre—where it has performed the spring show every year since 2009—despite the theater's statement in October that it would stop subsidizing CBC's use of the space.
"We knew coming in that because of funding problems with the Arts Initiative and changing to funding, our relationship with Miller was a huge problem," Ariana Lott, CC '13 and CBC's artistic director, said.
CBC will be able to use the performance space, thanks to support from the Joint Council Co-Sponsorships Committee, which is providing it with thousands of dollars to pay for Miller Theatre. CBC's use of Miller Theatre is also being funded by the President and Provost's Student Initiative Fund, grants from the Gatsby Foundation, and various student groups.
"We've had a lot of support from the community, the student councils, the GS gala that started a fund for CBC. These, and a lot of other things, were really, really nice," Lott said.
Not to be brought down by fiscal troubles that presented themselves early on, the group is bringing an increased scale and diversity of work to the stage.
This year's show features 28 dancers.
The show will also feature more elaborate props and costumes than in years past, with Rachel Silvern, BC '14 and CBC's assistant artistic director, running what she called "a one-woman costume shop" in her room. It is also the first time they have used older choreography—the Balanchine piece—and the first time they are covering a political issue.
"There's a piece about the whole gun issue and children," Lott said. "That's a really exciting piece. We've never had a politically charged piece before. It's Americana-themed. I don't want to give too much away, but it's shocking at the end."
"All of the pieces are so strong, and they're all really diverse," she added. "Nothing looks like anything else in the program. We have some en pointe, some not en pointe, some classical, some less classical. It turned out even more diverse than I was aiming for, which is amazing."
Professional choreographers whose work appears in the show include resident choreographer Emery LeCrone; Josh Prince, a Broadway actor and choreographer who most recently choreographed "Shrek: The Musical"; Alison Cook Beatty, the founder of ACB Dance Company; and Duncan Lyle, a dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Caitlin Dieck, GS '13 (North Carolina Dance Theatre, Charleston Ballet Theatre), Sarah Esser, BC '15 and founder of e r a Dance Collective, and Serena Mackool, GS '15 (Ballet San Antonio, Tulsa Ballet), also choreographed pieces.
For dancers, working with professionals brings a new element to dancing.
Silvern, who will dance in two pieces, said the pieces' collaborative nature made them fulfilling to be a part of.
"The piece has a story to it," she said of her piece with Lyle. "It has some acting. There's a Narcissan echo business."
Her other piece is Dieck's, which has a larger cast and is less traditional.
"In a larger group piece, the rehearsal atmosphere is totally different," she said. "In each piece I've been in with CBC, not only does everyone have their own movement quality, their own style, their own concept for the piece, but also a really unique rehearsal environment in the studio as well. The environment in here is just fun. It's a group project. The piece takes on its own life depending on who's in the room and what's going on in the studio at the time. It can morph, which is exciting. You feel like a part of it."
At the Tuesday night rehearsal for Dieck's piece, a move was altered because dancers on each half of the stage were doing it slightly differently.
"I like that swivel that this half is doing," Dieck said. "It's not meant to be that way, but let's all do it that way."
"Growing up and attending ballet in high school, you're learning things that have been done before," Lott said. "I've been in new works every semester here, and it's a different environment to be in a studio with a choreographer."
Part of CBC's larger impact is being able to offer a forum for choreographers to produce new work. Dance Magazine called the organization "an unlikely incubator for new creative voices, rare to begin with in ballet."
Young choreographers enjoy this exciting opportunity, according to Lott.
"I think a really important fact about CBC is that this year, seven of the eight pieces are new works," she said. "We're providing a space for students and professionals in New York to try out new ideas. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but that's what needs to happen."
Many CBC members don't know what they would have done without the organization.
"We're all very respectful and appreciative of the fact that CBC exists," Lott said. "At least for me, it was a major reason why I came here. It's the reason why I'm still dancing.
Silvern felt the same way.
"For me, this felt like the first time I was dancing for myself, getting as involved as I wanted to be. Last semester, when the curtain went up on our first show, I really felt like we had done this, and it gave me such a sense of accomplishment," she said.
Lott hopes the show will aid CBC's larger mission on campus and in the wider community.
"For the Columbia community, what we strive to do is bring ballet and bring art to campus and make it more accessible to students," she said. "The art world in general needs the support of students. When you go to the ballet, you see a lot of white and grey heads. We'd like for students to come, see CBC, and think, 'That was really cool, maybe I'll go and watch some dance this weekend.'"
"It's good for Columbia and it's also good for the dance world," she said.
Performances are Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in Miller Theatre. Tickets are $10 and are available at the TIC.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that CBC has performed in Miller Theatre since its founding in 2007, when, in fact, it has performed in the space since 2009.
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