The Ballet 5:8 fall season has come to a close. The Company Artists will be back in the studios for rehearsals starting in January. For the time being, attention at the studios has turned to Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts and the school's production of the full length story ballet The Carpenter's Son set to go onstage in just a few weeks (if you don't yet have plans for December 19-20, the school's high-quality production makes for a fabulous alternative to a trip to The Nutcracker at a very reasonable cost). Still, its always a good idea to pause and reflect when time and space allows - and we have had a very full fall season with plenty to reflect on!
One of the first items to note is that we had several "firsts" during the fall season: We were able to give our first-ever performance in the Davenport/Quad Cities area and add Davenport to our list of touring cities! We found quite the warm welcome in the Quad Cities, and Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager's newest creation, Four Seasons of the Soul, received overwhelming positive audience feedback along with The Story of Job. A few weeks later in Chicago, we had our first performance a the historic Ruth Page Center, and a little over a month later, we gave our first solo performance at the annual Dance Chicago festival at the Athenaeum theater in Lakeview. Though drastically different, both performances were wonderful and, Lord willing, the beginnings of new traditions for Ballet 5:8 that will last for years to come.
In other "firsts," Four Seasons of the Soulwas Company Artist Lorianne Barclay's debut as Ballet 5:8's resident costume designer and the costumes were, by all accounts, a fabulous success. We drove the new Ballet 5:8 bus on tour for the first time (everything fit!) and greatly enjoyed being able to travel all in the same vehicle. Three-year Ballet 5:8 veteran Lauren Ader-Cumpston performed for the first time after being promoted to Lead Company Artist at the beginning of the season, and Brette Benedict performed with us as a Company Artist for the first time after spending the past few seasons with Rochester City Ballet in New York.
Tying into the theme of firsts, Ballet 5:8's Fall Season also marked the greatest adventure in ballet creation for the company yet. With a jam-packed schedule and no time to look back, Slager's choreography was a sight to behold as it grew and developed, one ballet after another, all season long - and with remarkable variety. The highly technical and brilliantly emotional Four Seasons of the Soul came to life during the month of September and, bringing chills to audiences every time it is performed, is poised to become one of Ballet 5:8's classic pieces of repertoire. In October, Slager's Sigao Ekklesia took the company in a completely different direction, challenging everyone with a much more raw, contemporary style of movement that effectively captured the raw emotion of the piece.
After having explored some of the farther reaches of the art form of ballet in its most neoclassical form and then in its most contemporary, November quickly became characterized by the exploration of ballet in a completely new form. Musings...Or Don't Take Yourself So Seriously started under the guise of being a reflection on the layers of a classical ballerina, but after the first few rehearsals, it became clear that Slager was not content to merely reflect. What happens if you take a base specimen of classical ballet, infuse it with a healthy dose of neoclassical technicality and speed, and add a jazzy, slightly sassy stylistic flavor and layers of nuance inspired by some of the best ballet jokes? Musings, of course. The ballet, for many reasons, is captivating - but you may have to wait for the next time it appears on a performance bill to see for yourself, perhaps during the 2015-2016 season. Time will tell.
The fall season was clearly a technical and choreographic adventure, but it also marked a rewarding journey into the Scriptures that inspired the ballets. Most notable was the company's study of the book of Ecclesiastes. Full of practical and sometimes blunt words of wisdom from Solomon, Ecclesiastes made it clear that we should, in fact, have a humble outlook on life and not take ourselves too seriously: for "All is vanity" (1:2), and "All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return" (3:20). If this sounds depressing to you, you are not alone. The truths presented in Ecclesiastes are admittedly a bit somber! Nonetheless, the joy of Ecclesiastes comes from the truths that can be understood once you grasp "all is vanity" as a starting point. First, resist wasting your life grasping for what is not yet come. The time will come: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (3:1). Then, ultimately, rest in the beautiful perspective on life that only God provides: "He has made everything beautiful in its time" (3:11).