Hope Richmond Ballet performs

by | Mar 24, 2022 | What’s Happening

Sunday, April 24, 4:30 pm, Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center, Virginia Wesleyan University

It is in divine moments when I know for sure—art is an essential element of life. It is also in these moments I am reminded of the light from all the stars—the little ones and big ones.

One of the brightest stars I know is the Richmond Ballet, named The State Ballet of Virginia in 1990, back when I danced with the company. Ever since, Richmond Ballet has taken on the mission of being Virginia’s professional dance company and so much more.

This company, representing all of Virginia, has made an impact around the world, country, and the Commonwealth, including Hampton Roads. Over these past four decades, Richmond Ballet has brought their expertise to local theaters and schools. From the highly acclaimed Nutcracker, a variety of repertory shows and lecture demonstrations, to the amazing Minds in Motion program, which gives fourth grade students the opportunity to experience movement, dance, and performance.

Since 2010, Minds in Motion has also been sending teaching artists to Israel, where the education system is divided. Jewish students learn in Hebrew, while Arab students learn in Arabic. Even though the children often live near each other, they rarely meet. Minds In Motion Israel fills the need for positive connection by using the universal language of movement. By partnering Jewish and Arab schools from neighboring communities in a shared residency, Minds In Motion Israel is able to cultivate relations not only between Jewish and Arab students, but also between their teachers, schools, and broader communities. Our community proudly supports this amazing program through the generosity of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

In April, it won’t be necessary to drive to Richmond to see the Richmond Ballet perform a fantastic show, but rather just a short drive to Virginia Wesleyan University’s Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center.

The first piece on the program is one near and dear to my heart, Allegro Brilliante, choreographed by George Balanchine, music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This is a piece of choreography I will never forget. Just saying that, I can picture the eight of us dancers getting ready, gathered around center-stage. Someone would count the ‘four sets of eight’ out loud so we would all be exactly together on the first sauté arabesque. The curtain rises on us already moving, as if to say, “hello, step right in…we have been dancing this whole time!” My trusted dance partner, Brett Bonda, now Richmond Ballet’s managing director, and I loved dancing this dynamic ballet together. I especially love how the music builds and builds. At the end, it’s like the grand finale of fireworks. It is a wonderfully captivating piece and one of the reasons I wanted to be a company dancer at Richmond Ballet. Not all companies have the rights to perform George Balanchine’s work.

The show also includes Three Preludes, choreography by Ben Stevenson, OBE, music by Sergei Rachmaninoff. This piece explores the evolution of a couple’s love in an intimate ballet setting.

The third piece is a pas de deux from Vestiges, choreography by Colin Connor, music by Michael Nyman, where two dancers display their undeniable connection, reminiscent of a moth to a flame.

A gorgeous piece from Ma Cong, the ballet’s new associate director entitled Glare, concludes the program. Cong’s undeniably emotive signature movement, along with an extraordinary score by David McAlmont and Michael Nyman, are the base for this powerful work that reflects the human experience and, I dare say, where the company shines brightest.

Two years ago, when the world shut down, Richmond Ballet pivoted quickly and did not go dark. They found ways to keep everyone working—no small feat. The dancers worked in small pods, trained, and performed in masks, offered dozens of in-person shows with virtual ticket options, and so much more. Their mission is to awaken and uplift the human spirit and they took that to heart the past couple of years, never swaying and staying on point (pun intended). The phones were ringing off the hook, due to so many other dance companies needing advice on navigating the unprecedented pandemic season.

The company is comprised of elite dancers from around the world who have helped earn Richmond Ballet critical acclaim. Dance/USA says Richmond Ballet is “a jewel among U.S. dance companies,” while The Washington Post calls it “a company to which dance fans everywhere ought to pay attention.” In addition to the professional company, the Ballet also trains and educates more than 800 students annually in the School of Richmond Ballet.

There is just something about coming together in a theater to share a transformative human experience, filling all our senses, filling us with hope. And I think it goes without saying, we could all use some of that right about now.

The show on Sunday, April 24 is presented by Towne Bank. Open-seating tickets can be purchased at: www.richmondballet.com/goode.

-Elyse Tapper Cardon