Rabab Al-Sharif | Staff Writer
Sasha Janes and Rebecca Carmazzi’s performance on the Amphitheater stage tonight could very well be their last.
The couple’s appearance with North Carolina Dance Theatre in residence with Chautauqua Dance and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. in the Amp will be their farewell performance as dancers, said NCDT artistic director John-Pierre Bonnefoux.
“The chances of (Carmazzi) and me dancing together on a Chautauqua stage again might be slim,” Janes said. But “never say never, right?”
Janes, who is an associate artistic director of NCDT, and Carmazzi will perform “Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa,” which roughly translates to “leave the thorn, take the rose.” The pas de deux, which was created in 2006, is the first ballet Janes choreographed.
Carmazzi begins on the ground and gradually blossoms into a beautiful rose, Janes said. His character, representing death, follows Carmazzi through that journey.
In the end, the rose dies, he said.
“It represents that even beautiful things have to go through that cycle of life,” Janes said.
Janes said he never asked to or wanted to choreograph, but Bonnefoux gave him the opportunity in 2006.
At first, he thought he would do something different to Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, he said, but then his singing teacher played Handel’s “Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa” for him. As soon as Janes heard it, he knew he would use it.
“It just spoke to me straight away,” he said.
The accompaniment by Handel will be performed by the CSO and soprano Raquel Gonzalez tonight.
The couple are the only to have danced the piece since it was first choreographed, and Janes said the ballet represents a memento of their relationship.
“I think when we first did it, it would have been too hard to give up,” Janes said.
But now, both he and Carmazzi said they want other dancers to experience it the way that they have.
One of the first most challenging things about the ballet was getting through it, Janes said.
“It’s physically really, really hard,” Janes said. “I’m an idiot for making it that hard.”
But after doing the ballet for years, Carmazzi said, they have figured out where to breathe, allowing them to become more emotionally involved in their characters.
“Now we’ve worked out a way to get old and get through it,” Janes said.
In six years, the couple haven’t changed a step, Janes said, but the ballet keeps growing and feels different each time.
Janes said when they first created the piece, they had been dating for quite some time, but it has been six years since.
“We’ve got three kids together; everything’s different,” he said.
Janes and Carmazzi, who have been together for about 10 years, were just married this May in Aruba.
In addition to the couple’s performance, Mark Diamond restaged his 1998 ballet, “An American in Paris,” set to the score of the same title composed by George Gershwin.
The movements in the ballet are very much like those in a musical or a dream ballet in a musical, Diamond said.
Because the ballet requires such a large cast, it features many student dancers from the school, Diamond said.
The American, danced by Pete Walker, is an artist living in Paris, Diamond said, who is young and amazed by all the city has to offer. He falls in love with a beautiful French woman, danced by Jamie Dee, only to find out she already has an older lover.
The American dances through vignettes of French life, finding himself encircled by feathered and sequined showgirls, causing a scene at dinner performance.
The spectacle carries throughout the ballet with appearances from a maître d’, paparazzi, waiters, a ballerina, a beatnik and even French poodles, until it ends with the American and the French woman together at last.
NCDT will also dance excerpts from the third act of “Sleeping Beauty.” The company performed the full production of “Sleeping Beauty,” choreographed by Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, during its season in Charlotte, N.C.
It was a good experience for everyone, Bonnefoux said, because classical is the base of ballet vocabulary.
“It was a really good for everybody to go back to the roots,” he said. “And for me to remember what I learned dancing in Paris and Russia and New York.”
The excerpts include the “Bluebird” pas de deux, “Puss in Boot,” the “Lilac Fairy” solo and the grand pas de deux of “Aurora and the Prince.”
Bonnefoux said he chose to use “Sleeping Beauty” piece for the show with the CSO because it just makes sense. Usually, he tries to choose ballets with classical music that the musicians will enjoy, so Tchaikovsky’s music for “Sleeping Beauty” seemed perfect.
“If we want to do something really classical, nothing could be better than “Sleeping Beauty,’ ” he said.
Bonnefoux also set “Danse Brillante,” a ballet he created in the ’80s, he said. It was first choreographed by the director of the Paris Opera Ballet. The piece, which includes students from Chautauqua Dance as well as NCDT members, is heavily inspired by the music of Édouard Lalo.
“I remember dancing that piece myself when I was in the Paris Opera I think in the ’60s,” Bonnefoux said. “I just loved that music and I wanted to do my own version of it.”
Like “Sleeping Beauty,” the ballet uses classical vocabulary. Usually, the works with the symphony are more classically based than other performances in the Chautauqua season, Bonnefoux said.
“We show that the company can really excel in classical ballet as well as contemporary works,” he said.
What makes the performance with the CSO so special, Bonnefoux said, is the collaboration between the dancers and the musicians.
Working with recorded music ensures that the music will always be the same tempo, he said, but it is not as inspiring as live music. And although the dancers only rehearse with the CSO the day of the performance, Bonnefoux said the live music makes a difference.
“Especially here in Chautauqua where the musicians’ talent is such a treat,” he said. “The dancers are inspired by the music, by what they play.”
It also helps, he said, that guest conductor Grant Cooper understands how to lead a symphony playing for dancers.
“With the symphony, you really rely on the conductor to give the dancers what they need,” Bonnefoux said. “When tempi are too fast or too slow, it just really changes the whole dynamic of the evening.”
The choreographers try to pick ballets with exciting and interesting music that the audience will enjoy hearing and the symphony will enjoy playing, Bonnefoux said.
“The idea,” he said, “is that the audience and the symphony and the dancers should have a blast.”