American Repertory Ballet and Rider: strong dance partners

By Kimberly Ortiz

This past weekend, Rider hosted the American Repertory Ballet (ARB) as it held its first prformance, appropriately named Season Premiere, featuring the works of several choreographers and company dancers.

The first, Glazunov Variations, gave dancers a chance to showcase their skills in a variety of ways.

With stunning choreography by Kirk Peterson, each variation told a different story that expressed emotion filled with leaps and turns, both from the female and male dancers.

The second piece, Ephemeral Possessions, choreographed and costume designed by ARB’s Artistic Director Douglas Martin, brought a mixture of love and loss that could only be seen in a piece involving a contemporary style of dance combined beautifully with ballet.

The evening’s final performance, a fun, colorful Straight Up With a Twist, choreographed by Mary Barton, gave a vibrant energy that had some audience members laughing along at points.

Small sections of Spanish dance, designed by Kaila Flexer, were also added to the performance to give it a variety of movements to go along with the music.

ARB has been partnering with Rider University for over 20 years. In addition to hosting its premiere performances, this partnership has granted students in the dance department the opportunity to take courses for credit at the company’s Princeton Ballet School.

Douglas Martin, ARB’s artistic director, says the relationship is possible because of the wide range of class times. Students can choose from about 180 classes at the ballet school.

“The fact that you could do this morning, noon and night gave the students a lot of freedom to arrange their schedule,” he said.

The connection with the students was in fact evident, as many were seen filing into the crowded theater to view the performances.

Although Season Premiere focused on ballet, Princeton Ballet School offers an array of classes that dancers can take for leisure, or for course credit. Classes such as hip hop, jazz, theater dance and even Spanish dance are currently being offered at Princeton Ballet School, all with ballet as the main foundation.

With a large faculty, including Rider’s own professor of dance Dr. Kimberly Vacarro, many of the students are taught by faculty of both the university and the school.

ARB’s executive director, Vanessa Logan, finds the shared faculty to be an important part of the relationship between Rider and the institution.

“It’s truly extraordinary, and we’re trying to find different ways that we can expand upon our existing partnership,” Logan said.

As executive director, one of Logan’s roles is to work closely with the active enrichment department, such as reaching out to institutions like Rider. It also includes working with Martin on the artistic aspect of each ARB performance.

As the partnership between Rider and ARB continues to grow with more courses and opportunities, Martin discussed a possiblility of offering classes during the summer season for course credit.

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