Arts & Culture

Fall Ballet: From basics to Balanchine

Friends University Ballet will showcase the work that goes on behind the scenes during the school's Fall Ballet program next weekend.

As people arrive for the dance performance, ballet class will be in session on the stage.

Then Sharon Rogers, ballet mistress at Friends, will narrate as dance students demonstrate the rudiments of ballet — the five basic positions of the body and feet, fundamental posture, and the knee bends, arm sweeps and steps that create the balanced and lyrical look of ballet.

The dancers will then perform "Pieces" by Stan Rogers set to minimal music by Philip Glass, to showcase these building blocks in action.

"We just really want people to understand what to look for, to understand the technique that makes ballet ballet," Sharon Rogers said. "I'm going to try to help them better appreciate the beauty of it."

The program will then continue with a classic-meets-contemporary dance, "Variations on a Theme," and the narrative dance "Prodigal Son," based on the Bible story.

"Variations on a Theme" was prepared at Friends by Stan Rogers and Dominic Walsh, a classically trained choreographer from Houston, and given its premiere there last spring. Walsh has for years visited Friends, many times as a star soloist in "The Nutcracker," more recently as guest choreographer.

"It's such a great ballet I thought I'd just turn it right back around," Rogers said. Ten of the 12 students from the original production will dance the piece again.

"It's not easy," Rogers said. "We've had a chance to really work on it and now it is even more dynamic in terms of the contrasts."

The ballet, set to the classical orchestra piece "Variations on a Theme by Haydn" by Brahms, balances sections of traditional and modern movement.

"I would come up with a theme with my seven dancers, then (Walsh) would bring his dancers out and change it into contemporary," Stan Rogers explained. "We did the whole ballet like that. It's kind of a back-and-forth, but we change it so we mix it in, especially at the end."

"Prodigal Son" was created by Rogers after the famous ballet by George Balanchine. The Bible story is re-created and set to music by Prokofiev.

The Fall Ballet at Friends will progress from basics to Balanchine, from classical tradition to contemporary concepts.

"But you don't have to be working your brain all the time," Stan Rogers said. "You can just enjoy the beauty, like looking at a flower."

If you go

friends university ballet

What: Fall Ballet performance featuring "Pieces," "Prodigal Son" and "Variations on a Theme" by Stan Rogers and Dominic Walsh

Where: Sebits Auditorium, Riney Fine Arts Center, Friends University campus

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Oct. 11

How much: Tickets are $15, $12 for students and seniors. For more information, call 316-295-5537.