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Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater brings passion to ‘Fall Ballet’

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The ballerina stands still on the stage of the Musical Arts Center, her chest imperceptibly rising from the pas de deux she performed. Her pale pink and white tutu, beset with sequins, sparkles under the stage lights and as the strings began to play, she glides — effortlessly, a symbol of beauty and grace found throughout “Fall Ballet.” 

The Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater will present “Fall Ballet” with different casts— allowing dancers to perform different roles— at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6-7 and 2 p.m. Oct. 7. Tickets are available through the Jacobs School of Music website.  

“Fall Ballet” features a variety of choreographed pieces, opening with a classic by renowned choreographer, George Balanchine, “La Source.” Originally choreographed as a pas de deux, Balanchine later expanded the piece to include divertissements and nine other dancers. 

IU senior Zoe Gallagher dances the soloist role in one cast. While favoring the contemporary style of dance, Gallagher embraced the Balanchine style of movement to help bring a storyless piece to life. 

“Being just a performer and not necessarily a storyteller is really fun,” Gallagher said. “It’s a very virtuous solo and it’s so much fun to dance with all the corps, it’s just been the best time.” 

Gallagher was also able to embrace her contemporary side, however, with the final piece of “Fall Ballet,” “Shibuya Blues” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Inspired by a busy district in Tokyo, the piece features various depths of mechanical-like movement to tell a story. Abstract and complex as the dances were, Gallagher felt an engaging challenge in communicating a story through that complexity. 

“Seeing how we can develop that story element of the pas (de deux) is kind of intimate and very emotional,” Gallagher said, “It’s something I have to get into a zone for, but it’s been really rewarding.” 

Another contemporary piece, the fast-paced “Heatscape” by Justin Peck, a resident choreographer for New York City Ballet, will also be performed. IU senior Aram Hengen, having previously danced in Peck’s “In Creases” for the 2021 Fall Ballet, was no stranger to the unique style of movement. Hengen found his understanding of Peck’s work had changed since 2021, crediting his increased knowledge of the industry and movement. 

“Slowly you learn more and more about the ballet world and realize, ‘Oh this guy’s incredible,’” Hengen said. “He’s one of our current top choreographers then the way you approach it changes. You understand the style more, you can think about certain mannerisms in his style and approach it like that.” 

Adding to Hengen’s comfort with the choreography in “Fall Ballet” was faculty member, Christian Claessens’ world premiere, Autumnsongs.” Having been taught by Claessens over the course of his training in the ballet department, he appreciated Claessens’ method of building movement off of the dancers to create a naturalistic style of movement. 

“He takes so much inspiration from who he’s creating it on so you’ll never feel uncomfortable doing it.,” Hengen said. “Then when you get on stage it’s a lot more fun because it’s already in your body.” 

With a blend of contemporary and classical work, “Fall Ballet” allows audiences to see how uniquely a ballet dancer can move in pieces of different styles. IU senior Ruth Connelly enjoyed this expression, seeing it as the natural direction for a dancer to take with their learning. 

“It’s the next step in what you’ve been working on all your life,” Connelly said. “You still need the basics, like how you need the ABCs to write things. It’s like the writing that comes after you learn your ABCs. Technique is what we grew up on and now we’re exploring what we can do with it.” 

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