Rochester City Ballet and its new artistic director travel to Canandaigua next month to present a work set in Paris circa 1900
NOTE: The following story has been corrected; the dates of the performances — April 3 and 4 — were incorrect in the original version posted here and in print.
Just two days after arriving in the Rochester area in January, Robert Gardner found himself at the grand-opening gala performances at Canandaigua's new Fort Hill Performing Arts Center, where members of the Rochester City Ballet were among the performers. RCB's brand-new artistic director liked what he saw and heard.
"When I found out we were going to present the 'Moulin' there — everything was falling into place," Gardner said Wednesday.
Gardner, most recently the artistic director and resident choreographer of the Minnesota Ballet, has jumped right into the new responsibilities, finding himself in the middle of preparations for Mark Diamond's ballet "Moulin d'Paris," which premiered last weekend at Nazareth College and will be presented next month at Fort Hill. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday, April 3, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at the venue at 20 Fort Hill Ave., Canandaigua.
"Because the choreographer they had had a health crisis, they asked me first if I could start right away — if I could finish the ballet," he said. "I had never experienced that before." But it came together. "Having a ballet master like Beth Bartholomew, and having a company that's a gem, and willing to put their trust in me from day one — it was a labor of love."
He added: "It's a lot of work; playing catch-up mid-season is challenging in a way — but a challenge I'm relishing."
"Moulin d'Paris," choreographed by the Chautauqua Institution's resident choreographer Diamond, is set in circa-1900 Paris and based on Alexander Dumas' novel "Lady of the Camellias." (A theatrical production Dumas adapted of his work has inspired numerous stage and film versions over the years, most notably the Verdi opera "La traviata.") As Gardner explains it, it's the tale of a courtesan in turn-of-the-century Paris named Lisette, and the man who falls in love with her, Armand.
"It's a basically wonderful old-fashioned love story," Gardner said. "They try to get together and they can't; he wants to rescue her from that lifestyle, and she wants to get out of it. It's an amalgamation of ballet and Broadway — you feel like you're at a Broadway show when you come to this ballet."
As a RCB release puts it, Diamond leaned into the time period heavily, "accentuating the combination of excess and inhibition."
"The clubs of turn-of-the-century Paris had no restrictions in the choice of entertainment; they were a product of the time," Diamond stated. "Clubs were a combination of dinner club, dance hall and meeting place for all social classes. This is perfect for the kind of entertainment that this ballet presents. It's so full of interesting and alluring characters — you will not lose interest or attention."
Rochester City Ballet received a National Endowment for the Arts grant — its first one ever in RCB's 33-year history — to commission Diamond to create the ballet. When Gardner got into town, he stayed in frequent communication with the choreographer to finish preparing the work, and is quick to stress that this is very much Diamond's ballet.
Gardner had been exploring options with companies of comparable size of his previous company, perhaps a bit smaller, and Rochester City Ballet was very much on his radar: He had known many people in the course of his career as a dancer who had come from Rochester, and he had danced together with RCB ballet master Bartholomew in the 1980s. Starting his dance career in New York City, he gradually became aware of the wealth of cultural offerings outside the NYC area, like Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown and, of course, Rochester. "What a little hidden jewel," he said of the Rochester ballet company.
"This is such a talented group of dancers; they have such a great work ethic," he said. He likes Rochester and its environs, the facilities in which the ballet performs, and its partner school, the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education, named after RCB's founder.
While "Moulin d'Paris" has been his focus, Gardner is looking to the future, and what initiatives and approaches he hopes to take with RCB.
"I believe in a very eclectic repertoire, which they do here," he said, "but I am a classicist, so I love the classics." Meaning the famous likes of "Swan Lake," "Sleeping Beauty" and such: "I want to do my version, because I've spent my career crafting my own versions of the classics for small companies."
Gardner choreographed more than 40 works for the Minnesota Ballet, including his original versions of those two ballets, plus "Firebird," "Dracula," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and more. He has also choreographed for opera, orchestra and music theater, including such works as "Into the Woods," "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Les Misérables." He has received an Excellence in the Arts & Sciences Award from the Saint Louis County Board of Commissioners and the Lifetime Artist Award from the Depot Foundation.
In Rochester, he hopes to build on existing partnerships with other area cultural groups like the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (the two join forces every year for "The Nutcracker") and build some new partnerships, as well as beef up RCB's outreach in area schools with after-school programs and the like.
"I want dance to be part of everybody's life, and part of their education," Gardner said. "It's been provedn that people who do dance do better in match and science. It activates your brain, you're using the left and right sides of your brain."
Tickets for "Moulin d'Paris" range from $25 to $35 and are available by visiting the box office or by calling 585-412-6043. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday, April 3, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at Fort Hill Performing Arts Center, 20 Fort Hill Ave., Canandaigua. More details are at www.fhpac.org, and more information about Rochester City Ballet is at rochestercityballet.org.
Marie Osmond tickets selling quickly
Marie Osmond was "a little bit country," hitting No. 1 on the country chart with "Paper Roses" in 1973 and going on to join brother Donny on a late-1970s ABC variety show that established them as the most famous of their musical family. (Donny and multiple brothers were successful as The Osmonds earlier in the 70s.) She followed it up with several country and pop releases and some turns at acting (TV, film and Broadway) and hosting, last year becoming a co-host of CBS' "The Talk."
Marie will come to Rochester this summer, accompanied not only by her band but by a symphony orchestra, in a show that includes selections from her country, rock, rop and Broadway songs. "An Evening with Marie Osmond with Symphony Orchestra" — which promises "Special Surprise Guests" according to a release — will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at Kodak Center, 200 W. Ridge Road, Rochester. Tickets are on sale now and are selling quickly, priced at $36.75, $66.75, $86.75, and $125.75. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 585-254-0181 or online at: https://www.kodakcenter.com
They're 'Bound for Glory'
Folk music fans may want to turn their radio dial to FM 93.5 on Sunday, March 8, when Rochester Folkus founders Bill Destler and Rebecca Johnson will be taking to the air. They'll be singing on the folk radio show "Bound for Glory," with sets at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. It can also be heard at www.wvbr.com/live.