Get out your dancing shoes. Not only can you enjoy a night of ballet, you can also join in the fun of learning how to dance on stage. “It gets people trying it and learning something new,” said Brett Raphael, artistic director and CEO of Connecticut Ballet.
The state’s professional ballet company has kicked off its annual summer tour, Ballet Under the Stars, and is making a stop at Ives Concert Park in Danbury on July 15 as part of the Newtown Savings Bank Fine Arts & Family series. The ballet will also be performing at the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport on July 24.
The Ives is the only tour stop that give the audience members a free one-hour on-stage ballroom class. “It’s a great way to engage a new audience of dance folk and a fun summer activity to do as a family,” said Raphael who suggests bringing comfortable shoes or sneakers. The class will be led by Ted Thomas whose background includes choreography, competitive ballroom, and a prominent career as a modern dancer and dance instructor. “Thomas has also participated in Curtain Call’s Dancing With the Stars gala several years in a row as one of the professional partners,” explained Raphael.
This is the ballet’s eighth appearance at Ives. “It’s part of our Danbury Dance Initiative which seeks to bring dance to a wider community and also provides scholarships to middle and high school students based on talent and need,” said Raphael.
According to Phyllis Cortese, executive director of Ives, “We’ve been hosting exceptional performances of Connecticut Ballet for many seasons, bringing a greater appreciation of the dance art form to Western Connecticut audiences. As the professional ballet company of the state of Connecticut, and through their outreach performances each season, they develop future artists and audiences and are always striving for artistic growth.”
Cortese noted dance students from the region appreciate the unique performances at Ives. “They always delight in an opportunity to meet with the cast and company after the performance,” she said.
The program will be narrated by Raphael and include ensemble pieces, one duet, and world premieres by Raphael and choreographer Eve Chan, ballet mistress, to the voice of opera diva Cecilia Bartoli. Audiences will be dazzled by two stunning pieces — the Raymonda Variations, a section from a famous full-length ballet by Marius Pripa, choreographer of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker — and the contemporary ensemble work, Pulse, which Raphael commissioned from Darrell Grand Moultrie, a Juilliard graduate who recently worked with Beyoncé. “The vision is to bring dance to the people. Too often, ballet is associated with proscenium theaters and highbrow culture. We want to demonstrate how entertaining and accessible dance can be but present it on a very high level,” said Raphael, noting audiences enjoy ballet because of its athleticism, its sensuality, its grandeur, its daredevil timing, and overall universal message.
Connecticut Ballet was founded in 1981 by Raphael and fellow choreographer Luk de Layress, and is a member of the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut. Since its inception, Raphael has choreographed more than 18 original works and 10 full-length productions, and the ballet has featured world-class soloists and principals performing the highest-quality classical masterworks and contemporary ballet.
“Our artistic mission is the presentation of professional ballet throughout our state and the provision of educational opportunities for mainstream and at-risk youth,” said Raphael. Through its affiliated year-round school, Connecticut Ballet Center and Center for Dance Education, which serves all ages and backgrounds, Connecticut Ballet develops future artists and audiences toward a greater appreciation for the art form he said.
Raphael said he and his company are looking forward to the summer tour. “It’s a chance for us to showcase our sensational dancers and give them a chance to be seen in some dynamite pieces.”
All events are free with the exception of Ives Concert Park ($10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under). For more information, visit ivesconcertpark.com or contact the Connecticut Ballet at 860-293-1039 or visit connecticutballet.org. Rain cancellations are posted online on or before noon on the day of a performance.