JORDYN RUSSELL – STAFF WRITER
The Chautauqua School of Dance is set to present the final Student Gala of the season at 8:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16 in the Amphitheater. The evening will once again work to highlight a mixed repertoire of premiere and established works, spotlighting the talents of the Chautauqua Apprentice Dancers.
The School of Dance continues to promote the tradition of quality and excellence at the School of Dance. Under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, the school emphasizes a particular focus on encouraging and preparing the next generation of dance stars for success.
Patricia McBride, director of ballet studies and master teacher, staged excerpts of Raymonda Variations for the gala, featuring music by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. The piece calls attention to a series of wondrous solos, a pas de deux and an opening and closing ensemble.
Raymonda Variations was originally choreographed by New York City Ballet Artistic Director George Balanchine. McBride recognizes Balanchine as one of the initial pioneers of avant-garde ballet and one of the greatest choreographers of the 21st century, launching ballet into the world of the future.
“I love to stage Balanchine’s work, he holds such a special place in my heart,” McBride said. “Staging his work and passing it on to these beautiful students from all over America has been one of the best things in my life, still perfecting his steps from over 60 years ago.”
Balanchine premiered the ballet in 1961, incorporating the movement of the entire body, using solos to highlight the classical technique of his dancers.
“The students worked as one throughout this very difficult work, spotlighting Balanchine’s famous musicality,” McBride said. “Casting was decided in three days, with just a week and a half for students to learn it.”
Throughout the evening, the gala will showcase three ballets including A Fraction of Abstraction, choreographed by Sasha Janes, director of contemporary studies.
A Fraction of Abstraction features music by John Adams and Jóhann Jóhannsson, assimilating elements of both classical and modern dance to create a piece with a more contemporary feel. This will be Janes’ second time debuting the piece in the U.S., bringing Chautauquans a first hand opportunity to experience the work.
Additionally, the event will spotlight two differentiating ballets When We Gathered Beneath the Big Sky and Sideralis.
Award-winning choreographer Joseph Jefferies choreographed When We Gathered Beneath the Big Sky, with Mark Godden choreographing Sideralis in exploration of “sidereal time,” the time measured relative to the stars, featuring music recomposed by Max Richter.
McBride expressed her respect and appreciation for the dance students ahead of the gala.
“The dancers this year are truly amazing; I have such an admiration for the students as they are always giving 100% every rehearsal,” McBride said. “They are so talented and wonderful, with their commitment, patience, strong work ethic, passion, beauty and just everything that they bring here to Chautauqua.”