I originally wrote this post a year ago when I, along with other dancers, had concluded Zalman “Zali” Raffael’s Choreographic Workshop, a Carolina Ballet corps member who lead and fundraised the project. For some reason or other I never posted it, but luckily WordPress saved it. It’s a great sense of accomplishment having danced Zali’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on the big stage, where a year ago, the dancers or even Zali couldn’t have imagined it happening. It goes to show anything can happen.
My view in January 2012: The two-week workshop working with my dear friend, choreographer, and fellow company member Zali was phenomenal. The twelve other dancer, Zali, and I grew together as we experienced his creative mind at work to Gershwin’s playful “Rhapsody” music. The workshop made me realize aspects of my dancing that I needed to be reminded of. In a long story short, at the beginning of the second week of rehearsals I injured my elbow and the injury to repair it became a blessing in disguise. It forced me to be more aware of my porte de bras (carriage of my arms) and thus effected my focus on Zali’s choreography.
My view in February 2013: Firstly, I am grateful my elbow is fixed and close to perfect! Secondly, I love revisiting pieces I’ve performed earlier in my career. Although my professional career has only been four years, it is an interesting experience to be able to reflect on how much I have grown as a dancer/artist since I last worked on the particular piece. I can use my acquired technical knowledge to reshape how I execute the movements. I could also refocus and change my intention behind the piece to create a better character.
Below, I have photographs I took during rehearsal in January 2012 for publicity for the studio performance followed by a review from an audience member from the workshop. Next, I have photographs by Nigel Armes with a quote of Carolina Ballet’s News & Observer February 2013 review.
Review from January 2012 by an audience member:
I knew Zali was a good teacher from what students in the Summer Intensive told me, and I’d heard he was choreographing in NYC before returning to Carolina Ballet. But I was unprepared for the experience of seeing his “Rhapsody in Blue” Sunday evening at the studio – it was emotional and touching.
When I received the invitation, I had no idea that he had raised the funding for the project himself, start to finish (including the lovely reception afterwards). In two weeks’ time, he and 13 dancers created his vision of one of the most iconic pieces of American music ever composed. I don’t know if Zali had a “story” in mind when he made it, but I always think “New York” when I hear the music, and to me this dance seemed about the City. When the women entered in their Degas-esque tutus, they embodied the hustle-bustle of the sidewalks, and that NYC energy continued throughout the piece, with the give-and-take of men and women, the lifts echoing the “ups & downs” of Manhattan living. I loved the contrast of traditional ballet garb with Gershwin music – two instantly identifiable pieces of culture.
I thought the piece was about a triangle – Cecilia’s character seemed constantly yearning, searching, for connection in the City but was unable to find it until her encounter with Marcelo – who, tender and romantic, wanted to connect with her yet was still bound to the character portrayed by Jan, who conveyed her hurt and agitation. The other dancers entered and exited with the ebb and flow of movement in the City. I loved the choreography – I thought the movements embodied the music, and the dancers acted with passion, charm, and melancholy as they executed their steps. I enjoyed the intimacy of seeing this piece in the studio (the audience of about 150 people sat or stood to watch the performance), but I would like to see it staged in a theatre. I loved the exchange of energy between choreographer, dancers, and audience.
Review from Feb. 8, 2013 by the News & Observer Newspaper:
“… The program opens with company dancer Zalman Raffael’s extremely appealing choreography for George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” His astute feel for the music’s changing rhythms and moods guides Cecilia Iliesiu and Jan Burkhard (as two aspects of the same woman) and Marcelo Martinez as their object of interest, in a swirling combination of precise steps and sassily languorous characterizations. …”