Ballet is a beautiful thing, especially performed by moonlight. Which is why one of our favorite fall dance traditions is Ballet Under the Stars.
It's a series of free Ballet Arizona performances on outdoor stages at several parks throughout metropolitan Phoenix at 7 p.m., just as twilight descends over the desert sky. Ballet Under the Stars features three diverse dance works and takes place at various locations in Phoenix, Tempe, Fountain Hills, Goodyear, and Sun City West from Thursday, September 24, through Friday, October 2, including shows on Saturday, September 26, at Steele Indian School Park and Thursday, October 1, at the Tempe Center for the Arts amphitheater.
This year’s program comprises three pieces that reflect the company's roots. First up is Pines of Rome, choreographed by Ib Andersen, the company’s artistic director since the year 2000. Born in Denmark, Andersen danced with Royal Danish Ballet and New York City Ballet. Andersen premièred Pines of Rome during Today’s Masters, performed in March 2015 at the Orpheum Theatre.
Andersen danced with New York City Ballet while it was headed by renowned choreographer George Balanchine, whose Rubies will be performed as well. First performed by New York City Ballet in 1967, Rubies is part of a three-act ballet inspired by Claude Arpels’ jewelry designs, according to the George Balanchine Trust, which describes Rubies as “crisp and witty.”
In between, audiences will see 3 Pieces, a work choreographed by Tzu-Chia Huang, who hails from Taiwan and joined Ballet Arizona in 2005. It's been adapted for this production since premiering with the title 4 Pieces in May as part of Innovations performed at the Dorrance Theatre housed in Ballet Arizona’s relatively new complex located along the light rail midway between downtown Phoenix and the company’s former home near the Arcadia neighborhood.
Ballet Under the Stars features seasoned company dancers such as Natalia Magnicaballi and Kenna Draxton, but also dancers brand new to the company. Ballet Arizona welcomes nine dancers this season, following the retirement of several audience favorites including Huang, Paola Hartley, and Astrit Zejnati.
Eight dancers are completely new to Ballet Arizona and another, Connor Cohen, actually performed with the company last season as part of its studio program. Five dancers are from the United States, and the others from Brazil, Cuba, Canada, and Japan.
This year’s Ballet Under the Stars also includes youth performance created through a project called Class Act — which pairs professional dancers with students from local schools and youth helped by local service organizations to create, choreograph, and perform new dance works. Different youth will perform each evening, under the direction of Joseph Cavanaugh, Education and Community Outreach Manager for Ballet Arizona.
It’s been a good year for folks who favor seeing dance in unconventional settings. Before both nights of this year's CONDER/dance Breaking Ground dance and film festival, dancers performed short, original works atop 4 x 4-foot stages set inside the Tempe Center for the Arts art gallery, lobby, and outdoor amphitheater where Ballet Arizona will perform Ballet Under the Stars. During May, dancers activated indoor and outdoor spaces at the Clarendon Hotel as part of ARTELPHX 2015.
Audiences will have another chance to see Ballet Arizona perform outdoors this season, when the company returns to Desert Botanical Garden, where it premiered Andersen’s site-specific Topia in 2012 (performed again in 2013). Their 2015-16 season includes “An Evening at the Garden," featuring choreography by Andersen, being performed May 17 to June 4, 2016.
Ballet Arizona’s 30th season also includes Coppélia, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Today’s Masters, All Balanchine, and Studio Spotlight. Find information about the full season, and locations for all five Ballet Under the Stars performances, on the Ballet Arizona website.