As the curtain rises to the opening strings of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade,” the dancers from the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater are revealed. Perfectly poised and draped in a soft blue light, they welcome the audience to the end of the ballet season.
Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater will present “Spring Ballet” at 7:30 p.m. March 31 to April 1, and 2 p.m. on April 1 — with different casts.
The performance will feature the George Balanchine classic piece, “Serenade” as well as a world premiere by acclaimed choreographer Gianna Reisen and “Ballad Unto” by the celebrated Dwight Rhoden.
IU sophomore Indiana Coté is dancing one of the principle parts of “Serenade” and said she felt honored to be taught her role in the piece by Kyra Nichols, an IU professor of music. Nichols had danced “Serenade” for Balanchine, becoming one of the last dancers to have worked with him.
“It’s a part that she’s known for, and it’s been a really special experience to learn that from her,” Coté said. “I personally grew up watching her in ‘Serenade,’ so it’s been amazing to get that experience.”
A former professional dancer, Coté was familiar with the piece — having previously danced various roles in the corps. Coté saw the opportunity to dance “Serenade” in a principle role as a full circle moment for her as a dancer and drew from her time with the corps to enrich her performance.
“It’s different going into it now, but at the same time dancing with the corps has helped me understand what the ballet is about,” Coté said. “It’s really about the movement and there’s moments where you’re dancing with the group but also as an individual and you still have to do that as a principle.”
“Serenade” is thirty minutes of near-continuous movement with dancers entering and exiting at various points in the piece, asking the audience to form their own story where there is none.
IU sophomore Ashlyn Dupree dances in Reisen’s piece and corps in “Serenade.” Despite the contrast of movement presented — with “Serenade” being more classical and Reisen’s work being neoclassical — Dupree used her experience with the Balanchine technique and the similar ideas of movement found in both pieces to execute both.
“I can still find the same qualities in both,” Dupree said. “Gianna’s is so technically challenging and fast — which parts of “Serenade” are as well so in keeping with the Balanchine technique way they are both very similar.”
Reisen’s contemporary piece has a feeling of sassy rebellion to it as a dancer in yellow moves against the synchronized movement of the blue and orange clothed corps. With this unique style, Dupree said she could put more of herself into the steps, creating her own character and using that to influence her movement.
“With contemporary ballet you can make almost everything your own,” Dupree said. “Not necessarily changing choreography, but there’s just more to add — I feel more freedom with the more artistic choices.”
IU junior Maddie Brown dances in “Serenade” as well as “Ballad Unto.” “Ballad Unto” has been described by Rhoden as an articulation of love, which Brown saw through the passionate and expressive form of physical movement.
“There’s a lot of physical contact, everybody is using each other to either lift each other up or push each other down to kind of express that love,” Brown said. “It’s all about the different expressions of love — its ups and downs — and how it’s transformed on different people.”
The two pieces Brown dances are challenging with excessive movement and timing coming together to form something audiences will — Brown hopes — be enraptured by. Coming out of an injury, she described the feeling of dancing on the Musical Arts Stage once again as an amazing one, feeling supported by her fellow dancers to bring her all to the pieces.
“It’s the way the music and the movement blends together, everything just fits together extremely well,” Brown said. “It feels comfortable — you’re with all your friends too so you feel encouraged to keep going even when you’re tired.”