Arts & Culture

Ballet 'With a Song' faster, more theatrical

Ballet is the most malleable of the arts. Dancers must be lithe and limber and bend with the creative ideas of a choreographer. The dance steps, too, are often changing — varied over time and shaped by each dancer's particular grace and skill.

Take the ballet "With a Song" by Stan Rogers, created and first performed by Friends University Ballet in 2002. The ballet was set to classic show tunes by Richard Rodgers and featured various pairings of performers, with a corps of 21 converging to dance "On Your Toes" in a finale.

"With a Song" will return to Sebits Auditorium at Friends University today through Sunday, one of three ballets to be presented on the Spring Ballet showcase. But "With a Song" is different than it was back in 2002.

"When I did it eight years ago my dancers couldn't quite do what I wanted — and now I've got 'em," Rogers said. "It's a lot more theatrical; some of the fast things especially fit the music a lot better because we go fast instead of half-timing it."

Rogers is artistic director of Friends University Ballet; each year incoming students and departing seniors change the composition — and potential — of his dance company. Rogers tweaks the movement of earlier pieces to fit the human material at hand.

"Which is kind of interesting as an artist," Rogers said. "You know, a visual artist would finish a painting and hang it up and they would be afraid to put another color on it after eight years. But I mix it up so it fits on the dancers."

Spring Ballet performances will also feature two ballets in different dance and music styles. Rogers' "Glass Pieces" is set to minimalist music by Philip Glass, where short, simple melodies and phrases repeat over and over — with slight changes interjected over many repetitions.

The movement in "Glass Pieces" was similarly created. "There are several motifs in each movement that I keep repeating and keep changing," Rogers said. "It's ballet and it's danced on point (on tiptoe), but I use the body in abstract designs that are not familiar to ballet dancers — like legs crossing over way behind and arms going in directions you wouldn't expect."

"Memories in Melody" by Friends ballet instructor Ashley Brittingham is set to three solo piano waltzes by Chopin. "It's pretty," Rogers said.

Dance, even as it changes, remains constantly beautiful.

If you go

friends university ballet SPRING PERFORMANCE

What: Spring Ballet performance

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

When: 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

How much: Tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors

For more information, call 316-295-5877.