The great outdoors isn’t always the most hospitable venue for ballet. In fact, it may well be a disastrous choice. But it’s a fitting challenge for Ballet Theatre SLO, a local dance company whose upcoming season seems to have a welcome why-not streak running through it.
- PHOTO BY BARRY GOYETTE
Called Ballet in the Vineyards, the company’s season benefit is as elegant as it is daring. Artistic Director Theresa Slobodnik has choreographed a new ballet specifically for the courtyard of the Edna Valley private estate where the event will be held, and the performance’s admittedly rather staggering admission price is eased by the inclusion of wine, dinner, and a reverse auction ticket.
“You know, you can’t just take something that you made to put in the theater and put it in a courtyard outside around a fountain, out in the middle of the vineyards,” Slobodnik laughed.
Her solution, the brand-new South American Suite, is a ballet in three movements, beginning with the stylized, rhythmic piece “Sun Maidens.” Set to Peruvian harp and guitar, the ballet begins around a circular fountain in the estate’s courtyard and concludes on the other side of the home with two more pieces, a pas-de-deux called “Heart” and a Paraguayan polka.
The benefit will fund the company’s ambitious plans for the season, which include an October company performance and two holiday programs, including La Boutique Fantasque, quickly followed by a Valentine’s Day offering in February.
And if all goes according to plan, these performances will take place in the company’s downtown studio, which will have been converted into a theater.
Then, to top it all off, there’s Slobodnik’s original three-act ballet Undine, based on the novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué.
“A human and a water spirit get switched, and it’s the story of what happens,” Slobodnik explained.
The novella was produced as a ballet in London in 2000, but the way she sees, it, that version skipped all the best parts, a wrong Slobodnik seeks to right.
“Frederick Ashton, the great English choreographer, he sort of skipped to the end,” she remarked. “He didn’t tell the story of the switched children and their lives, and to me, that’s a story: how these little girls get switched when they’re about 4 years old, the water spirit gets put with the fisherman and his wife, and their daughter gets put with noble people, and they have these parallel lives that end up intersecting again later.”
By the time the gorgeous new ballet debuts in the spring at the Performing Arts Center’s Harman Hall, it will have been a year in the making.
And if one dreamy, elegant evening in the vineyards can help make the magic a reality, where’s the harm in that?
Arts Editor Anna Weltner dances where she pleases. Contact her at [email protected]