State Street Ballet (SSB) has given us some of the Granada’s greatest nights. The theater was remodeled with the intent to create a permanent home for several of our city’s resident performing arts companies. It’s been a blessing to every one of them, but certainly none more so than Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson’s remarkable team of dancers, choreographers, and designers. In addition to lighting up the universal Christmas tree of happiness that is The Nutcracker every year, they charm a range of audiences, from the families and schoolchildren who came to see Cinderella to the modern dancers and their friends who turned out in force to witness the world premiere of Edgar Zendejas’s Rite of Spring. When the marquee on State reads “State Street Ballet,” you know the event will be spectacular, entertaining, and unforgettable.
And this Saturday-Sunday, May 13-14, you can follow them off State to the Ensemble Theatre Company’s gorgeous and intimate New Vic theater, where they will present Modern Masters, an original program of contemporary dance featuring the work of four brilliant choreographers. After the success of Women’s Work, last May’s SSB program, the company looks set to make this spring weekend at the New Vic a regular thing. It’s a great idea, because it provides these prolific artists with their own version of Off Broadway — a place where innovation and imagination can operate freed from the commercial considerations that sometimes constrain them in the larger venue.
Two of the four works on the program are new, and the others — one by longtime State Street associate William Soleau and the other by Boston choreographer Kevin Jenkins — have either never been seen here before (Jenkins) or haven’t been seen in a while (Soleau). Soleau’s “Sonnets of Love and Death” premiered here in 2004, when SSB performed it as part of a festival of Latin American expression at the Lobero. He said that he is looking forward to seeing it again for the first time in 13 years and described the dance as a “subtle, poignant, and emotional” exploration of the pas de deux form. It features three couples and is set to Argentine folk songs with lyrics by Pablo Neruda.
Soleau’s Sonnets will be danced en pointe, as will Cecily Stewart’s contribution, which takes a very different musical approach. Stewart will be familiar to many, either from her piece based on The Diary of Anne Frank, “Anne’s Window,” which was part of Women’s Work, or from her dancing with the company. She describes the work she will premiere at Modern Masters, which is set to a mix of songs by Depeche Mode, as a significant departure but one still rooted in her classical training. “There’s a theme of how we interact with technology, and it’s performed with lots of classical steps,” she said, adding that, “At the same time, in some aspects it has a Broadway feel.” Expect to hear some of your favorite Depeche Mode jams early in the night, as this work will open the show.
Gina Patterson is a seasoned professional choreographer who nevertheless maintains a palpable edge. Stewart describes Patterson’s contribution, “The Call,” which will serve as the show’s finale, as “super contemporary.” Stewart dances in Kevin Jenkins’s C’est la vie, a quirky, subtle quartet that she said has “lots of character work.”
4·1·1 State Street Ballet presents Modern Masters on Saturday, May 13, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 14, 2 p.m., at the New Vic (33 W. Victoria St.). On Saturday evening, the program features a presentation celebrating dance photographer Rose Eichenbaum’s new book, Inside the Dancer’s Art. For tickets and information, visit statestreetballet.com or call 965-5400.