“Ballet is not one thing; it’s many things,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Holly Hobbs. This is important to remember as audiences attend the next performance of Hillsdale College’s Professional Artist Series.
The Grand Rapids Ballet, Michigan’s only professional ballet company, will be performing their 2018 – 2019 season opener at the Fine Arts Building on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. They will be presenting “Wild Sweet Love,” a repertory show “filled with variety and comprised of unrelated, stand-alone pieces of approximately 15 minutes each packaged into one singular performance,” according to an event press release from the ballet. The performance will feature four separate dance works and a mix of classical and contemporary ballet.
Hobbs, director of the Tower Dancers, said that classical ballet is “important and relevant to the art of dance,” but audiences need to understand that classical ballet is only one facet of the art.
“When we think about classical ballet, we’re referencing the story ballets from Imperial Russia: the ballets we know and love like ‘The Nutcracker’ or ‘Swan Lake,’” Hobbs said. “Dance has taken on an entirely different direction and has been influenced by different styles of dance, like modern dance. There’s a merging of disciplines that has happened, so ballet today looks very different than ballet in Imperial Russia in 1890. I think it’s important for audiences to come with an open mind, to understand that ballet exists in several forms.”
Contemporary ballet usually has sharper arm and body movements and is sometimes more expressive than classical ballet, according to sophomore Liana Guidone, a member of the Tower Dancers.
“Their music is going to be a lot different than you would expect from ballet, like the very elegant, lyrical music,” she said.
Hobbs said the art also has value for the liberal arts tradition.
“Students arrive on campus with much more knowledge about music or theatre or visual arts than they do dance,” she said, “However, dance has many things to teach us about collaboration and communication, which are important characteristics in liberal arts. Also, creative problem solving is integral to liberal-arts study. Applying real-world experiences is another way dance prepares an individual to meet the challenges in all walks of life.”
Hobbs said students don’t criticize modern plays for not being similar to Shakespeare’s works, so the same treatment should be given to dance. Audiences need to respect the work for itself and in its own context. Classical and contemporary ballet, while different, are both true to the art itself, she said.
Guidone said she will be taking a Tower Dancers’ masterclass with the Grand Rapids Ballet instructor, James Sofranko. Sofranko was a dancer for the last 18 years at the San Francisco Ballet, according to the press release. He also received an Isadora Duncan award for Best Performance in 2011 and was part of the Broadway touring company of the musical “Movin’ Out.” Guidone and nine other Tower Dancers will also observe the professional company’s dress rehearsal and even dance in Friday’s performance.
“How often do you get a professional ballet company to come to our school and put on a performance like this?” Guidone said. “Watching it would give people a better appreciation for ballet. A lot of time, you think ballet is tutus and skirts, but in reality, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s an art, it’s a lot more than just what you first think of.”