Around Orlando: A Chat with Orlando Ballet’s Executive Director Shane Jewell

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. 

Shane_Jewell
Mr. Jewell. Image from the Orlando Ballet website, featuring a smashing bowtie! 

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.

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Interview: Orlando Ballet Director Robert Hill’s quest to keep the passion going in Carmina Burana

This past week, we were given a second opportunity to interview Orlando Ballet director Robert Hill during a rehearsal for Dies, nox et omnia (Day, night, and everything), one of his dances for the upcoming Carmina Burana.

We sat in the relocated rehearsal space of Orlando Ballet (more about this exciting news below) and looked on as prima ballerina Kate-Lynn Robichaux learned her dance by 21st century means: watching her 2013-era self perform it on a video monitor. “I’m much more chill about this dance today than I was back then,” Robichaux said. “It’s probably because you just got married,” Mr. Hill responded, and Robichaux grinned as she raised her left hand to show off her ring.

Mr. Hill bounced between chatting with us and leaping up to help form the dance in front of us, explaining to the dancers that the theme of this piece was the male dancer’s exploration of his passion — his reaching within to find emotion, reaching back out to share it with the world. Robichaux performs the embodiment of his dream, allowing her body to be contorted and moved and carried in a complex series of lifts as she lives out the melancholy of male dancer’s imagination.

We pulled up the lyrics to this one while we watched, and Mr. Hill chuckled, explaining that some of the lyrics were impossible to interpret literally. But in this one, the male soloist sings themes that are timeless enough to still be top-40 fodder, and the dance seems to interpret the lyrics well: “Your fair face makes me weep a thousand times, but your heart is ice; to restore me, immediately would I return to life with one kiss.”

How to explain this ballet? Mr. Hill debuted it with Orlando Ballet in 2013, in collaboration with Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra conductor John Sinclair. They were looking for an interesting piece that could combine choral, orchestral, and dance elements to make a dynamic impact on audiences, and struck gold when they decided on Carmina Burana. The music, composed by Carl Orff in 1936, has a lot in common sound-wise with Igor Stravinsky, and is based on medieval yet surprisingly relevant poetry.

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Sci Fi Short: Scavenger

I love when I run across something that reminds me of all the good things people can do.

This sci-fi short imagines an alien running across the Voyager 1 spacecraft and its precious cargo of music, greetings in multiple languages, and children singing. The alien is understandably entranced, and falls in love with humanity and a human woman, causing him to seek out Earth. Yes, it’s the plot of the first Star Trek movie – cut me some slack, I’ve had a rough week.  

I love being reminded that despite the news, Good Things are still happening. People are still communicating messages of hope by making art and music and working together on passion projects.

I love that technology amplifies crystalline notes of hope, and that anyone with the bandwidth and computer access can experience it.

I love that someone imagined an alien falling in love with the best of what humans are capable of.

I love this, and that I’m still alive to appreciate it.

I love.

Orlando Ballet Presents: Contemporary Wonders

Once again, Late to the Theater was very graciously invited to the Orlando Ballet. For a write up of Romeo and Juliet, go here. For a write up of Beauty and the Beast, go here.

For the final performance of Orlando Ballet’s 2017-2018 season, Artistic Director Robert Hill decided to do something more experimental than the season’s previous offerings: three different styles of performance. Although they ranged from modern/experimental to classical, all were united by the common theme of love.

Some guest artists also lent their considerable talents to the show: New York based choreographer Jessica Lang, and local chanteuse Sisaundra Lewis.

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In Theaters Now: The Shape of Water

I want you to know three things about The Shape of Water.

They are, in no particular order, that it is:

  1. Beautiful, lyrical, and absolutely deserving of the buzz surrounding it; the fact that there is so much buzz around it and that people are appreciative of such a daring story is wonderful.
  2. Marvelous, in that it literally contains marvels of all sorts. Acting, effects, imagery, characters, sets, dialogue, music, production, you name it, there is something in this movie to dig into.
  3. Inspiring a much, much longer review from my co-blogger Achariya and I that we will hash out tomorrow and post in the next day or so. I will keep general comments above a cut, but deeper discussion will need to contain spoilers so those will go below the cut.

Man. That was something. I cannot WAIT to write more, but it’s late and this sort of thing requires a proper marination of the brainmeats before anything can be said.