A Prince of a Part

Features, 11-12, Nutcracker

by Michael Elkin
Jewish Exponent
December 14, 2011
 
At Lucas Tischler's Bar Mitzvah this February at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, will they be doing the Macarena or a pas de deux?
 
Why not both: The proudly Jewish Elkins Park youngster is high on Haftorah and ballet leaps these days and is used to being feted himself.
 
Now he'd like to fete others. The community mitzvah he plans to pursue as part of his rite of passage: a dance-a-thon to benefit Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia; it's also where his mother is supervisor of volunteer services.
 
It is, as he reasons, "a step up" from his part last year in the suite as Fritz, a less regal role.But before the Bar Mitzvah, there's raising the barre. And that's what the 13-year-old is doing now, playing the Prince in the current Pennsylvania Ballet Company production of "The Nutcracker" at the Academy of Music.
 
He owns the court, saving little Clara from the armed toy soldiers in battle and plumping himself and her on a throne in this most sugarplum of a role.
 
But the Cedarbrook Middle School student has worked hard for it: "I've been studying professional dance for six years." And he owes quite a bit, he says, to the talented teachers at the Metropolitan Ballet Academy here.
 
A smart kid, he somewhat smarts when stereotypes of ballet dancers are voiced.
 
"Everybody plays sports at school," says the baseball and hockey enthusiast and accomplished player, too, "but ballet is very tough -- especially when you're taught by Russians," which he was during a summer session at the rigorous and respected Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Connecticut.
 
No tough love at home, just filial loving support coming from both parents Lisa and John, a computer programmer, as well as older sibs Emma and Golde.
 
The next step? He'll probably be handling princely roles for the next few years.
 
But one day, he says, "I'd like to act."
 
He acts his age, unspoiled, even while traveling in the jete stream of professionals. It is all so wonderful being on stage, where he says he knows he belongs.
 
A fan of the film Billy Elliot and its en point perusal of children in ballet, he totally agrees with the number from A Chorus Line in which dancers concede that "Everything Is Beautiful at the Ballet."
 
"It certainly is," he says with a sigh. "It's magical."
 
Read at jewishexponent.com.

PA Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Features, 11-12, Nutcracker

By Pat Ciarrocchi
CBS Philly
December 14, 2011

It’s the holiday season, and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is at the Academy of Music now through New Year’s Eve.

With its score by Tchaikovsky and the performance by the elite dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet, The Nutcracker is captivating.

And for Lauren Fadeley and Francis Veyette, the experience has spun a web of love.

“It’s very, very rare that you get to do what you love with the person you love,” says Veyette.

On October 29th, Veyette married Fadeley during the two week period when the company wasn’t performing.

“They emailed us the schedule,” says Fadeley, “and it said, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Veyette for Sugar Plum and Cavalier.’”

Principal roles that tell a romantic story are the stuff of great ballet. But to dance the roles together–for the first time–is rare.

“She’s an amazing ballerina,” Veyette gushes about his new wife.

“This is the best wedding present we ever could have gotten.”

The Nutcracker turns on the story of a child’s fantasy. The roles of Marie and the young Prince were cast with Nutcracker veterans from the first act’s party scene.

Twelve-year-old Mary Lee Deddens is dancing as Marie for the first time, and she’s thrilled.

“We’re told to practice at home. My sister is in the party scene also, so she sings the music and we both practice.”

Ballet Master Jeffrey Gribler has worked with The Nutcracker‘s children for twenty years.

“They’re mature and wise beyond their years, so they bring a lot to the ballet,” he says.

That includes 12-year-old Christian Lavallie, who is the Young Prince for the first time.

“I was a Party Boy, and it’s just like a huge upgrade from that. So, it’s a lot of fun.“

 

Read and watch the video at philadelphia.cbslocal.com.

 

Lauren Fadeley and Francis Veyette

Features, Dancer News

By Rosalie R. Radomsky
The New York Times
October 30, 2011

Lauren Fadeley and Francis Veyette, dancers with the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, were married Saturday evening at Minorca by the Sea, a condominium complex in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Jonathan H. Stiles, a friend of the couple from the ballet company who became a Church of Spiritual Humanism minister for the occasion, officiated.

The bride, 26, who will continue to use her name professionally, is a soloist, and the bridegroom, 31, is a principal dancer. Earlier this month, she performed in “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” and he in “Raymonda Variations,” both by George Balanchine. The couple, along with other members of the Pennsylvania Ballet company, appeared in the film “Black Swan.”
 
The bride, who graduated with distinction from Indiana University, is the daughter of Carol Weyant Fadeley and Brett D. Fadeley of Longwood, Fla. Her father is the chairman of Handex Consulting and Remediation in Winter Park, Fla., which removes pollutants from groundwater.

The bridegroom is a son of Dallas J. Veyette and Paul L. Veyette of Visalia, Calif. The bridegroom’s father is the vice president for sales and marketing at Harris Woolf Almonds, a grower and processor, in Coalinga, Calif.
 
The couple met in Philadelphia in 1997 as dance students — she was 12 and he 17 — at the Rock School for Dance Education’s summer program, which at the time was connected to the Pennsylvania Ballet.
 
“They paired the two of us together in a publicity photo shoot,” Ms. Fadeley said. “I was so young, and he was hot stuff at the time.”
 
Mr. Veyette, who became an apprentice with the ballet company after that summer, didn’t realize that Ms. Fadeley was in the photograph. “I remember doing a picture with a really young girl I didn’t know,” he said. “Basically she was so young, and we were on different schedules.”
 
In 2007, when Ms. Fadeley joined the ballet company, they were paired up at a rehearsal.
 
“I ran and jumped on him,” she said, “and I said: ‘I’m Lauren. There’s a picture of us downstairs.’ ” To which she recalled he answered, “Oh, that’s you.”
 
They quickly became friends, but romance was not in the picture. She had a boyfriend.
 
“It became obvious we both liked each other,” Mr. Veyette said. “We either needed to stop spending so much time together or she had to break up with her boyfriend.” After a few months, she did.
 
In February 2008, they started rehearsing for Peter Quanz’s “Jupiter Symphony.” Ms. Fadeley recalled that it was a “loving pas de deux, and the choreographer always said, ‘Make sure you look at each other’s eyes and smile.’”
 
Ms. Fadeley called that “very easy.”
 
In May, a month before the premiere of “Jupiter Symphony,” they had their first date.
 
“I went and picked her up on my motorcycle, and we went out to dinner, and then I drove her around Fairmount Park,” Mr. Veyette said. “We parked at the top of the hill, and laid a blanket out, looked at the city below and talked.”
 
“I was pretty much in love with her already,” he said.
 
Read at NYTimes.com.

 

From Russia, a coup for Pa. Ballet

11-12, Features

By Ellen Dunkel
The Inquirer
October 18, 2011
Alexei Ratmansky's Jeu de Cartes was built on the very specific talents of Bolshoi Ballet royalty, international luminaries such as Natalia Osipova, Svetlana Lunkina, and Maria Alexandrova.
 
The fleet, energetic ballet, set to Stravinsky, was choreographed in 2005 to honor the 80th birthday of Maya Plisetskaya, one of the most prima of ballerinas ever to grace a stage. It won a major Russian award for best choreography. And only the Bolshoi has ever danced it.
 
Until this week.
 
Pennsylvania Ballet presents Jeu de Cartes on its "Russian Suite" program Thursday at the Academy of Music, along with George Balanchine's Raymonda Variations and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
 
When artistic director Roy Kaiser approached his agent about acquiring a ballet from the highly sought-after Russian in time for the 2011-12 season opening, Ratmansky - who initially knew nothing about the company - selected Jeu de Cartes because he didn't have time to create a new work, he was eager to revive this one, and he learned that Pennsylvania Ballet in 2004 had debuted the Swan Lake of another highly regarded choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon.
 
And Ratmansky wanted to make it special. Philadelphia is "close to New York, and I don't think it's nice to repeat things that I've seen there," he said, sitting under an umbrella at a cafe table behind Pennsylvania Ballet's East Falls studios on a drizzly day last week. "I've done a lot of stuff in Russia, so I just think it's a good opportunity for me to bring something."
 
The 43-year-old Ratmansky danced with the Kiev Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet before leading the Bolshoi for five years. By 2008 he had worked so much with New York City Ballet that he seemed poised to succeed Wheeldon as resident choreographer there, under ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
 
Instead, he stunned the dance world by signing with American Ballet Theatre, as artist in residence.
 
"It's just schedule conflicts, because I had planned some projects that didn't really go well with Peter's plan of a resident choreographer. My schedule is much more free" with ABT, where in April his contract was extended to 2023. He continues to work with companies around the world and is premiering a major Romeo & Juliet at National Ballet of Canada next month.
 
Jeu de Cartes - "The Card Game" - was initially a wild card. Another ballet planned for Plisetskaya's gala hadn't come together, So with time running short, the Bolshoi shuffled the deck and turned to Ratmansky, then its artistic director.
 
"We were all like in panic: 'What to do? What to do?' " the choreographer said. "And so they all said, 'Well, there's nothing left. You have to do this yourself.' "
 
He had choreographed for the Bolshoi before, as well as the Mariinsky and other major companies. But this was one of his first works as artistic director, and the first time he had to choreograph on the fly, with no plans and with whichever dancers he could pull together.
 
"I knew this music, and I wanted to do this piece for a long time," Ratmansky said, "and it just happened. All the plans were made, and I just thought, 'OK, this principal guy is free,' or 'These three people are free, I will take them.' It was sort of this organic process. I didn't have anything."
 
His bet paid off. Ratmansky won Russia's Golden Mask Award for best new choreography for Jeu de Cartes, an honor akin to a Tony Award on an even larger scale because it spans all theatrical forms, from opera to puppetry to drama to dance.
 
For the Philadelphia premiere, he entrusted the casting to Kaiser. His wife, Tatiana, came two weeks ahead of him, to teach the steps.
 
"I sent a letter, because I didn't have a chance to come here myself," Ratmansky said. "But I described all the characters, quite precisely, to Roy. And he said, 'Well, that's people we have, and I'll make a choice. If you see something wrong, you'll change it.' But it seemed to work."
 
His Jeu de Cartes is not literally a card game, but Ratmansky, known for his extremely inventive musicality, plays with the Stravinsky score.
 
"It just blew my mind," said Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Brooke Moore, "what steps he would put where. And how many steps he wants you to do within one count - three different steps within two counts. Musically, it makes sense, but it's a challenge for your body to break it down. He's using everything that's in those three counts, things I just did not think I could do."
 
His inspiration arose partly out of Plisetskaya's interests. "I know that she likes solitaire, playing with cards with herself," he said.
 
There's no story. "It was more like a portrait of the dancers I worked with, so the vocabulary of the solos was what they could do best. It does make it difficult to set it on other companies."
 
Moore stepped into one of those positions. "He needed a powerhouse," she said. "In the second movement, my girl just does not stop for a while. He needed somebody who was more of an athletic dancer.
 
"The whole ballet is really hard," she said. "The solo that I have in the middle of the second movement is just very fast, and he basically wants me to move quicker than I think I'm capable of. I just have to push myself with everything I have."
 
In a recent rehearsal, Ratmansky spent more than 15 minutes with Moore going over and over and over the same phrase, stopping her every few steps to correct her foot position, her speed, or how she leaned into another dancer's arms. He and Tatiana stepped in to demonstrate.
 
"My goal is to get the maximum out of them, the most physicality, the most excitement," Ratmansky said.
 
"I will say that his wife was wonderful," Moore said, "but the ballet has become like a completely different piece within just the week that we've worked with him, because he's just very determined to get us to move the way he envisions us. And his musicality.
 
"He's super-nice, but he wants it for us - for his ballet, yes, but he wants us to move that way."
 
Ratmansky agrees. "I enjoy working, because no matter how good the dancers are, any company can have good dancers now. But to make the dancers do something better, that's the most exciting moment."
 
Read at Philly.com.

Back to school for Pennsylvania Ballet

Roy Kaiser, School of Pennsylvania Ballet, Features

By Ellen Dunkel
The Inquirer
May 07, 2012
‘Don’t be nervous,” Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Roy Kaiser told the 23 girls and two boys with their left hands on the barre, wearing solemn expressions and numbers pinned to their neat dance clothes. “Relax and work hard.”
 
The first of two groups of 12- to 14-year-olds followed principal dancer Arantxa Ochoa through an hour of pliés, tendus, jetés, and pirouettes last Sunday morning in the company’s East Falls studios.
 
“She’s my teacher’s wife!” one girl squealed on the way out of the audition, referring to Ochoa, a calm, gentle instructor with a striking presence. “That’s so cool!”
 
And that’s the point: The company — whose current and former members, including Ochoa’s spouse, Alexander Iziliaev, now teach all over the region — is about to reopen its own School of Pennsylvania Ballet after a 20-year hiatus as one of the rare troupes without its own training program.
 
Students will learn from dancers they’ve no doubt seen — or even danced with — on stage at the Academy of Music, and whom they ideally hope to follow into a career in a professional troupe. The children’s cast of Pennsylvania Ballet’s seasonal highlight The Nutcracker, now gleaned from academies around the region, eventually will be drawn entirely from the new school.
 
“Everyone in the city is excited, of course, no matter what school they currently attend,” said Vanessa Ryan, whose daughter, Sarah-Gabrielle, 14, was auditioning. “I think we’ve been waiting for this day since the first time Sarah set foot at the Academy of Music with Pennsylvania Ballet to do Nutcracker. She was only 10.”
 
About 170 ballet students, ages 8 to 18, came to audition last weekend from as far away as Connecticut. Many were intimately familiar with the company from their days as mice, soldiers, and angels in the company’s Nutcracker. At least three of the girls had danced the part of Marie, the lead girl’s role.
 
Stephanie Bandura, 13, from Philadelphia, was one of the more active Maries. She danced the part for two seasons and toured with the company in 2009 to the Kennedy Center in Washington. Even after she grew too tall to be on stage among the smaller children, the company called her back to film the part for the taping of the holiday show on the wall at the Comcast Center.
 
But she was still unsure about the new school. “I’ve gone to the Rock School [for Dance Education] since I was 3. I don’t want to leave it,” she said.
 
Read on philly.com.

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