Last Thanksgiving, I saw an avant garde video installation at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof. It was installed in the large, dark, open space behind the reception desk where the trains used to pull up to the platforms. The space has been a museum for a while now, housing carefully and sparsely displayed modern art (think, a can of Pepsi sitting on a white plinth) — but in this case less is just right, it really takes a lot of brain power to pour some of that stuff into my head.
On Wednesday, you got to know a little about the Artistic Director of Orlando Ballet, Mr. Robert Hill. Today, please get to know the Executive Director of Orlando Ballet, Shane Jewell.
Jen Bradley: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, first of all!
Shane Jewell: My pleasure.
JB: Let’s jump right in. You came to Orlando from Oklahoma City and have a degree in Film Theory. How did you come to be involved with ballet?
SJ: Well I’ve been involved in the arts my entire life and in musical theater, went to college on a musical theater scholarship. Then decided I wanted a more marketable degree so I went for film theory. After college I worked for this one company that presented national touring Broadway shows for tent cities in the Midwest, and I became Executive Director of a Classical Music Festival and then Executive Director of Oklahoma City Ballet. As someone who’s on the business side, going to the ballet I fell in love. It’s one of the few performing arts organizations where your performers and talent is in the studio Monday through Friday, just as I or you are. You take them into the office and go sit in on rehearsals and be close to the art they’ve created. Most times, even with regional theaters with rehearsals or tours or concerts, the artist comes in, they perform and they leave. You don’t get to know them or know their stories, watch them create this beautiful piece. So I really fell in love with being able to observe the process.
On Monday, Jen was again presented with the opportunity to chat with Orlando Ballet’s Artistic Director Robert Hill. We discussed a little of the past and a lot of the future for the company after the success of Bailamos!, a celebration of Latin Dance, which was a big hit with Central Florida’s diverse population.
JB: The recent production Bailamos! was a big success for Orlando Ballet. It was comprised of many different choreographical and musical styles. What was the most challenging aspect of its product?
RH: The most challenging… I don’t know, it’s a lot of variety in the program so I think when you have a show like that — where there are so many costume changes and its so fast-paced, and then if anybody gets injured and you have to replace somebody then it’s kind of a domino effect for such a small company– I think that that’s probably the most challenging thing: being sure that anybody that has to go out because of any injury. Although that said, I think the company really shined bright. I’m really proud of it.
JB: Yes it was such a wonderful show.
RH: Thank you.
Good morning and welcome to LT3 (which is my Cool New Way of saying Late To the Theater)!
Wednesday we’ll be posting another fascinating interview with Orlando Ballet’s Artistic Director Robert Hill, who was kind enough to find 10 minutes to discuss artistic expressions, costume changes, and upcoming events.
Friday we’ll be posting an interview with Shane Jewell, the new Executive Director of Orlando Ballet, who’ll be speaking to the company’s big turnaround and all the exciting new things on the horizon.
Stay tuned! And in the meantime, please enjoy this picture of a raccoon that visited my backyard and bothered my plants today.
Friday night, as the theater emptied, a great many audience members cut moves to the eponymous Enrique Iglesias song, playing over the loudspeakers. Couples young and old swayed and swung their hips. It was very apropos, considering the song’s lyric refrain is ‘Let the rhythm take you over, Bailamos!’ [‘We dance,’ in Spanish] a commandment all but impossible to refuse given the energy and warmth of the performance.
Orlando Ballet’s Bailamos! is in the dead center of the current season, but last Friday night they also threw a gathering for board members and interested community (like us blogging ladies) about their next season. The 2019-2020 season debuts on Halloween night with a reVAMPed Vampire’s Ball, “Complete with projections!” Mr. Robert Hill announced.
Also coming down the line are the ballets Nutcracker (at Christmas, per usual), Cinderella (the Prokofiev version), Made in the USA (dances from a range of American choreographers), and Mowgli (a Lion King-esque treatment of the Rudyard Kipling story). There will be kid-attention-span-friendly versions of Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Mowgli, too, in which each performance is only about an hour.
Mr. Hill looked bashful when he mentioned that he’ll be dancing in one of the pieces from Made in the USA. The dance in question was choreographed by his friend Jessica Lang (this one, not that one), who had always wanted him to perform the lead role. “It’s just me doing a bunch of port de bras, waving my arms around,” Mr. Hill said. “Anything else and I wouldn’t have done it.” Don’t be fooled by his self-effacing nature, Mr. Hill still looks very much up for the part.
But back to Bailamos! The purpose of the show was to pay homage to Orlando’s Latin community, and the theme involved dances from across time with a Spanish/Latin theme. To show support for Puerto Rican citizens displaced by Hurricane Maria, Orlando Ballet donated 1000 tickets for the weekend performance to the and the
Did it work? As with any ballet, each dance’s ability to tell a coherent story drove the emotion of the audience, and while some of the pieces weren’t as able to connect, perhaps due to being removed from their greater context (like the technically stunning but emotionally muted dances from Don Quixote and Carmen), some pieces worked very well.
My favorite numbers from the smorgasbord presented in Bailamos! were the ones that stood alone and presented a complete emotional story. I adored the tale of a man mourning his lost love in Cucurrucucu Paloma, and the beautifully delineated tale of existential angst danced by three dancers in Ojala-Chavela Vargas Excerpts. The other extremely strong, and obviously well-rehearsed, piece was in the second act, Mr. Hill’s choreography of Bolero.
Why were these pieces so good? In Cucurrucucu Paloma, dancers Blair Bagley and Daniel Benavides conveyed the music’s lament beautifully, infusing Mr. Hill’s choreography with meaning and emotion in every longing-infused writhe on the stage floor. Ojala I enjoyed because it’s wonderful to see dance built around themes of human emotion that are more complicated than just love. Staring out the windows and trying the door of a small room, three dancers are more in their own heads than with each other, and I appreciated the angsty navel-gazing of dancers Nick Patterson, Hitomi Nakamura, and Boris Ceballos.
Another strong piece, Ay Milonga, featured Boris Ceballos and Anna Ciriano in what resembled a tempestuous romance. Both wore black figure-hugging pants as they tussled, flirted, and twirled. Ciriano was especially commanding as she tossed the much taller Ceballos around the stage.
Bolero just blew everyone’s socks off. It had the precision that spoke of long, all-ensemble rehearsal, and the choreography and music ramped up together to a fire-filled finale.
We’ll be back, undoubtedly, to tell you how the rest of the season goes!
Jen and Achariya co-wrote this piece.