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{Classics. Gypsies. Rubies.}

The opening program to Carolina Ballet’s 16th Season is near and dear to my heart. Not only do I absolutely love dancing every role, but I might have to say this is the best mixed-bill program the company has put on the stage since I joined the company five season ago. The combinations of the five short pieces show the intellectual and artistic diversity of the choreographer George Balanchine; each piece presents his brilliance in a different way.

Jan Burkhard and Pablo Javier Perez in "Steadfast Tin Soldier." Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.

Jan Burkhard and Pablo Javier Perez in “Steadfast Tin Soldier.” Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.



{Raymonda Variations} 1961

{Steadfast Tin Soldier} 1975

{Rondo alla Zingarese} from the larger ballet {Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet1966

{À la Françaix} 1951

{Rubies} from the larger ballet {Jewels} 1967

Cecilia Iliesiu in "Raymonda Variations." Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.

Cecilia Iliesiu in “Raymonda Variations.” Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.

The opening ballet, “Raymonda,” is the most classical of the five pieces. For me, its focus is on precise Pointe work, pretty positions of the body, and smooth movement quality. Let me tell you, it is difficult to maintain all three of these elements at once with the pressures of the difficult steps, the stage lights, etc.

I was given the Fifth Variation, otherwise known as the harp variation, to perform. Not only do I need to look like I am dancing on clouds, but I also need the strength to hold the positions with ease. I love the challenge.

Final pose of "Rondo Alla Zingarese." Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.

Final pose of “Rondo Alla Zingarese.” Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.

“Rondo Alla Zingarese” is one of the most exhilarating pieces I have ever performed. It’s only ten minutes, but it exudes such fierce, fun joy. As the female lead, I get to give a bit of sass to my partner, but then flash a smile which makes him want to come back to me. Suzanne Farrell describes the part as “flamboyant, yet elegant fun.” I couldn’t agree more.

After dancing nonstop for ten minutes, you feel like your legs are going to give out, but the driving music gets you through to the final pose.

Above you can see New York City Ballet dancers, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar describing their experience dancing the Fourth Movement of “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet.” You might notice that Carolina Ballet’s costumes are vastly different to City Ballet’s. You might say that Ricky (Robert Weiss) wanted a more gypsy feel.

Final moment of "Rubies." Photo by Denise Cerniglia, 2013.

Final moment of “Rubies.” Photo by Tim Lytvinenko, 2013.

“Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet” and “Jewels” are similar in the fact that their musical movements within the ballet  unify it as a whole production. On the other hand, their unique choreographies allow these movements to be  performed individually, just as we have with “Rondo Alla Zingarese” and “Rubies.” The choreography is so strong that the audience doesn’t need the other movements to appreciate only one.

Being the tallest female in the Carolina Ballet, I was thrilled to be cast as the Tall Soloist Girl. Usually, I am a smiley persona on stage, but “Rubies” was one of the first times I barely cracked a smile. I was so focused before the show that I couldn’t talk to my friends, but instead I drew my attention to the person I wanted to be for the next 20 minutes on stage. Most of the steps to this ballet come naturally to my body, as I am a trained Balanchine dancers, but it was the character I was interested in creating.


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