by Holly MacNaughton
Dance and visual art became one recently when Ballet Pensacola, the Pensacola Museum of Art and the Anna Lamar Switzer Center for Visual Art at Pensacola State College recently collaborated to interpret works of art through ballet.
Five separate works from differing medias, including paintings, sculptures and photography, were paired with original interpretive dance to create the performance piece, “Possible Symmetry.”
Ballet Pensacola Artistic Director, Richard Steinert and his wife, Ballet Mistress Christine Duhon launched the show which brought the dancers and the art to the audience at the Pensacola Museum of Art from Feb. 14-17.
The pieces included artwork from artist Ken Falana, “Rubber Bullets/Crossroads, South Africa, serigraph, 35”X37”; Don Huber, “8 Windows” acrylic, 46”X75”; Matt Roberts, “Untitled”, photography, 20”X30”; Freda Tschumy, “Elbow III”, sculpture, 15”X18”X14”; and Carl Duke, “Flowers in the Sky”, oil on canvas, 48”X48”.
The small and intimate audience area allowed everyone to view the artwork behind the dancers as it was projected on to black silk curtains. The dancers glided across the floor in front of the works, giving the impression that the dancers were an extension of the art itself.
Steinert, originally from Connecticut, has been a part of theater and ballet for most of his life. He believes that inspiration can be inspiring in itself.
“There was a large amount of layers of artists and viewpoints and senses of inspiration in order to satisfy on an individual level to create this whole thing,” Steinert said.
Steinert took great care to a create a balance between the art and dance aspects of the performance.
“The challenge for me as a director on this was that we had to make sure, of these five artists that their integrity and the integrity of their work had to come first, because we became complete stewards of their work,” Steinert said. “So, one of the things we wanted to be careful about was to make sure that we were good stewards of that work.”
The ballet performers created five distinctive pieces, choreographed in part by Steinert and Duhon. Each dance segment correlated to each art piece. The individually named dances included; “And so….the millions” coincided with “Rubber Bullets/Crossroads, South Africa; “8 Windows” inspired “Through the Windows”; “Untitled” begat “So long….lonesome”; “Elbow III” matched with “Segment Shrugged”; and finally “Flower in the Sky” was named the same.
“If I see an artist connecting on some visceral sort of level with the piece of art, whether it be music or visual or anything, I tend to get a good sense of whether or not it’s going to go somewhere.” said Steinert on selecting the artwork and orchestrating the layout of “Possible Symmetry”.
The performers felt they became a vessel for the message that pours out of their performances on stage.
“Being close to the audience gives the experience a different feel,” said Rachel Kincaid, who has been dancing for 6 years.
This show was Kincaid’s first solo during her time with Ballet Pensacola.
Others shared Kincaid’s feeling connection with the audience.
“It’s a small intimate setting…a little intimidating,” said Kayla Bartlett, a 15 year ballet veteran and a patron of Ballet Pensacola for the past 2 years.
But being able to see their expressions of the audience throughout the performances was not a deterrent for her.
“Dancing is what I was meant to do,” said Bartlett.
Not all the dancers are apprehensive about being so close to their audience. Kristopher Williams has been dancing since he was five years old. He came to Pensacola from Virginia Beach and has been with Ballet Pensacola for 4 years.
“I love it!” said Williams. “I don’t like being far away from anything that I go see. When they see your expression, they feel it more. I love to see the expressions.”
The moods of the art were also expressed through the color and lighting and music of the performance. The dynamic lighting and close proximity of the dancers combined to blur the lines between simply observing art and somehow feeling like a part of it.
Dancer Samuel “Joey” Mounce has been with Ballet Pensacola for the past 4 years. Originally from Texas, Mounce has been dancing for 14 years and believes that dancing is a wonderful way to connect with people.
“Dancing is an awesome way to get a response out of someone,” Mounce said.