After nearly three weeks of intensive training and rehearsals, aspiring ballerinas and ballerinos will sauté and chaîné across the Amphitheater stage — some for the first time — throwing their passion into calculated, concise movements.
The performance at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amp is the first of two School of Dance Student Galas, featuring Festival and Workshop dancers.
“Dancing with the feet is one thing; dancing with the heart is hard,” said Glenda Lucena, ballet mistress. “You really have to love what you’re doing in order to project, to feel the audience, to connect with the audience. So that’s what we’re expecting (the students) to show to the audience.”
The performance features new works by School of Dance Faculty Mark Diamond, Michael Vernon and Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, as well as classic George Balanchine pieces.
Vernon’s new work — titled “Sunday Morning” — will open the bill. “Sunday Morning,” he said, abstractly and subtly references “Downton Abbey” in its costuming and patterns. Coincidentally, the piece is set to British composer Lord Berners’ score and is a neoclassical visualization of the music, which has rarely been choreographed.
“It is a wonderful collaboration when (students) can work with choreographers,” said Patricia McBride, director of ballet studies and master teacher. “They see how you move and they have a strong idea of what they’re doing, but the dancers also have an influence. (The piece) is made on them.”
Additionally, Workshop students will present excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Bonnefoux and which will be performed the previous evening — at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amp — with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in its abridged version of the ballet.
The Workshop students arrived last Sunday, and had a week to prepare for the gala and PBT’s Sleeping Beauty, according to Lucena. Lucena, who staged the work, said that while the dancers seemed startled and aghast at first, they quickly adjusted to tackle the piece — and the tight time frame.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting,” she said.
Closing out the bill, McBride — Balanchine’s contemporary and Kennedy Center honoree — will stage “Walpurgisnacht” from the opera Faust, choreographed by Balanchine in 1975 for the Paris Opera Ballet; it premiered on New York City Ballet in 1980. McBribe last staged the ballet for the School of Dance over 20 years ago.
“Walpurgisnacht” features demanding solos and corps de ballet work, according to McBribe, and requires the dancers to remain free, energetic and fresh, yet striking with Balanchine’s signature musicality.
“I just want them to get the essence and the spirit of what Mr. Balanchine wanted — for me, that’s really important,” McBride said.
Sunday’s afternoon gala is a preview for the collaborative School of Dance and Music School Festival Orchestra concert on Monday, July 22. The School of Dance’s second — and final — gala will be during Week Eight on Sunday, Aug. 11.