Connecticut Ballet dancing under the stars in two free outdoor shows at Hartford-area parks – Hartford Courant
Connecticut Ballet has fun outdoors with its latest touring program “Ballet Under the Stars.” Two performances are held in the Hartford area: July 28 at the Burr Mall next to the Wadsworth Atheneum and July 30 at Elizabeth Park in West Hartford. Both shows begin at 6:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
According to Bret Raphael, artistic director of Connecticut Ballet, one of the big misconceptions about ballet is that it is an elitist art reserved for white European cultures. “Ballet represents all dances,” he says, noting ballet traditions in Africa and elsewhere.
The performances of “Ballet under the stars” prove that ballet is not intended for a small and restrictive audience, says Raphaël.
“It’s such a beautiful thing to welcome every single person” to the free outdoor shows, which take place across the state each summer. “People are dancing in the aisles and calling out to us. You don’t see that at Bushnell.
A performance in Westport on July 19 drew 1,000 people, Raphael says.
The company moves with a 24-by-30-foot stage platform that allows for backstage changing. The lighting for the shows is mainly provided by the sun; performances start at 6:30 p.m. and last about 90 minutes, so the sunset is an added special effect.
Two of the four pieces in the program are classics from Connecticut Ballet’s repertoire, and the others are new works commissioned by the company.
- “A Piece That Might Never Happen About a Peace That Might Never Happen” was created by Portland, Oregon choreographer Carlyn Hudson for Connecticut Ballet’s “Digital Dance” virtual series. Hudson said the article was about “the importance of being heard.”
- “Panchama” was commissioned by Connecticut Ballet from New York choreographer Yamini Kalluri. She is a professional dancer in the classical Indian Kuchipudi style, and Raphael says the choreography also reflects Kalluri’s interest in American modern dance pioneer Martha Graham. “Panchama” features five dancers. Raphael notes that “the number five is very important” in the ancient Indian Sanskrit language and in the works of philosopher Alan Watts, who introduced many concepts from Indian literature and thought to mid-20th century America. .
- The Spanish-themed dance “Paquita” was created by Connecticut Ballet in 1981, the year the company formed and made its acclaimed debut at Jacob’s Pillow Ballroom in Massachusetts.
- “Threads from a String of Swing” is scored with big band music.
The “Ballet Under the Stars” series has been around for years and was originally known as “Ballet Caravan.” Connecticut Ballet has been able to maintain the series in recent years even despite the pandemic, with the 2020 schedule being moved from summer to fall to accommodate changing public gathering protocols. It was in 2020 that “Ballet Under the Stars” first performed at the Burr Mall, also known as the Alfred E. Burr Memorial, near the Wadsworth Atheneum on Main Street.
Raphael says that for Connecticut Ballet, “this coming year is kind of a real comeback.” This includes an increase in the number of performances, the company – which has its school and studio in Stamford but has always maintained its main office in Hartford – will increase the number of performances it does at Bushnell. There will be a full announcement on the ballet’s expanded local presence later this year.
“Ballet Under the Stars” can be seen July 28 at 6:30 p.m. (rain date July 29 at 6:30 p.m.) at the Alfred E. Burr Memorial, 570 Main St., Hartford; and July 30 at 6:30 p.m. (rain date July 31 at 6:30 p.m.) on the John G. Martin Foundation Stage at Elizabeth Park Conservancy, 1561 Asylum Ave., West Hartford. Free. Masks are optional but encouraged. connecticutballet.org.
Christopher Arnott can be reached at [email protected].