FESTIVAL BALLET PROVIDENCE
Located in a busy East Side neighborhood, in a most inauspicious looking building, a group of very talented people are always hard at work creating magic. Festival Ballet Providence was founded in 1978 by two dancers formerly of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and would head the company for almost thirty years. Now, nearly forty years later, Artistic Director Mihailo “Misha” Djuric honors the tradition of bringing important and engaging work in this beautiful artform.
Having worked on the East Side for many years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Misha and several of the company’s dancers. One thing I must say is that the dedication of these people is evident almost immediately; but seeing them in action during rehearsals is another thing altogether. The process is not always fluid but the dancing is very much so. Watching choreography is vividly fascinating and indeed shows how difficult it must be to not only dance, but inhabit a character that has been presented and played for decades, or even centuries.
I spoke to two of these vastly talented people one afternoon. Ruth Whitney and Alan Alberto joined FBP (Festival Ballet Providence) in 2012 at the beginning of that season and started dancing together quite soon after. Neither knew each other beforehand but have forged a lasting relationship in their work. Whitney has been dancing since age 3 and came from Teatrul de Balet Sibiu in Romania. What strikes me most about Ruth is that she’s an incredibly busy woman; having had her first child during her tenure here is just one, she lives in Boston and commutes, plus teaches at two different schools AND makes costumes.
Ruth cites Misha as being incredibly supportive of each of his dancers enjoying their lives outside of Festival, i.e., starting a family or business. Alberto is just as busy: attending Johnson and Wales University and recently started a business of his own, Mesa Fresca, making Chimichurri sauce. When I asked Alan how he is able to juggle school, work and a new business venture, he remarked that he is a very forward thinking person who is setting up future plans and is extremely organized with his time.
Alberto hails from California and has been dancing since the age of 15. The pair has worked together steadily since joining the company and I spoke to them about the process of working with different choreographers. FBP is working on two new ballets right now: Gino Di Marco’s “Lady of the Camellias” and Viktor Plotnikov’s “House of Bernarda Alba.” Ruth remarked that Viktor is very specific in his direction, knowing what dance moves accompany the work and the word “genius” comes to mind. Both Alan and Ruth agree that Di Marco is very hands on and prefers to work with the dancers to find what works for them AND the piece. Both spoke of the fact that the process is more manageable going in knowing the director’s quirks and approaches.
During my visit, I sat through a bit of rehearsal of “Hansel & Gretel” a World Premier ballet and score. What was quite riveting for me was the fact that much of the performance included sound effects instead of a score, but the characterizations are undeniably strong. One thing is certain here, the process is perfected until the performances are flawless. The spring will bring a performance of “Swan Lake” in May and will undoubtedly be a fascinating event. If you haven’t had the chance to see these very talented people perform, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. The company performs at large venues like the Providence Performing Arts Center and The Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, as well as the Black Box Theatre located at 825 Hope Street on the fashionable East Side of Providence. And in case you do want to attend, kids, you can call 401.353.1129, or visit www.festivalballetprovidence.org.
Although our nationally treasured groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil predicted a shorter winter. GET predicts a long binging season. Enjoy!