Providence Ballet was founded in 1995 by Eva Marie Pacheco. A Rhode Island native, Pacheco has been a part of the dance community in this area for many years, as a founding member of Festival Ballet Providence as well as a dancer with Island Moving Company in Newport. She now teaches at many university dance programs in Rhode Island, as well as owner and Artistic Director of Providence Ballet.
Pacheco and her team “believe in teaching through self-motivation, not intimidation.” Their methodology is centered around the understanding that “positive reinforcement helps students reach their full potential as moving artists.”
“Our students come from all over the state, as well as from our neighborhood in South Providence” Pacheco explains. Their studio has become a vital “artistic hub in an otherwise struggling part of the city.” In this and many other ways, PBT is committed to “enriching the artistic and cultural life of Rhode Island.”
Not only a school, Providence Ballet is also home to Providence Youth Ballet and Providence Ballet Theatre. They produce many performances throughout the year, with the goal to present work that is a mixture of challenging and accessible to all audiences. In the youth company, students audition, rehearse, and perform as they would in any professional dance company and often have the opportunity to dance alongside professionals.
Pacheco premiered the original production of Hansel and Gretel in 2012. This new mount of the work will be special with a new original score by New York Composer Tony Lustig.
Coming back to this ballet after four years, Pacheco explained the usefulness of taking the opportunity “to step back and have a good look at what I liked [from the original production] and what may have needed to be developed a bit more.” There are also the inevitable changes that occur when re-mounting a production, “whenever you have new cast members I feel the production changes,” but this time, with the addition of this brand new score, “it feels like a new Ballet to me.”
After seeing PBT’s performances last year, and becoming more familiar with her work, I was intrigued about her collaborations with other artists. I asked her to share some thoughts about how she approaches these kinds of projects. “I enjoy collaborations very much and have done so many times,” she shared. “Most of the time these partnerships come from conversations with other artists. When working in collaborations, one artist usually has an idea and as we work together we will create the outline.”
“I have collaborated with musicians mostly. I myself loved dancing with live music and I would love to give my dancers that same opportunity. I am very open to working with new composers.” She explained that she had collaborated with composer Roger Seitz for the original productions of Hansel and Gretel and The Magic Box, and had also worked with composer Garrison Hull on a piece of his called “Theme and Variation.”
“This collaboration with Tony,” who composed the music for this production, “was a new experience for me. I gave him the existing Ballet and he scored it for me. Then I went back to my choreography and synced it” in order to create a seamless transition, so that it felt like “this was the only music that ever had existed for the Ballet.” Working in this way “we did go back and forth a few times but we were both on the same page when it came to the feeling of the Ballet.”
Rob Ferland, PBT’s lighting and set designer and long-time collaborator, was a part of this process as well. When collaborating with Ferland, Pacheco explained that it starts with a conversation, “I tell him what I am looking for and then we sit and talk about the look.” He created “an amazing light plot for this ballet.”
Pacheco prefers sets that are a part of the dance’s landscape, that the dancers move at different points of the piece and evolve throughout the work, rather than a stationary backdrop. “I like having my set be a part of the total ballet. I also love abstract sets,” she continued, especially “when a particular set can represent many things.”
Something I appreciate about Pacheco’s work and the structure of PBT is the synthesizing of the advanced and professional dancers and the students. I asked if she could share a little bit about her philosophy and approach to creating evening-length work bringing together so many ages and levels.
“Thank you for this! This is exactly my mission, to educate young dancers while giving professional dancers an outlet to work while sharing their knowledge.” She explained that she often pairs advanced teens with company dancers in her ballets. This becomes an opportunity for great learning experiences for the the younger dancers, while also teaching experience for the company members.
“I was raised in a company where young dancers were exposed to amazing professional dancers. I learned so much by watching them in rehearsals and on stage. Being in the same class and rehearsal rooms is so different then just watching a performance. The young dancer learns what hard work and dedication it takes while the seasoned dancer realizes how much of an influence they can be on young people. It is a win-win for everyone.”
I asked how this has manifested in this particular production.
“In Hansel & Gretel I chose to keep Hansel and Gretel teens,” many ballet companies often use small framed adults for these rolls. Pacheco feels that choosing teenage students to portray these characters enriches the story, “They have an innocence and freshness that I love.”
This performance will also be premiering two new works. Providence Ballet Theatre company member Michael Bolger will be presenting his newest creation purple and blue with music by composer, Tom Rose. Also, choreographer/dancer Sara Barney Lustig will be premiering her most recent work, Confidence is 10% Dress and 90% Sequins, with a compiled arrangement by Tony Lustig.
Sara Lustig shared some of her thoughts about her work premiering this weekend.
“My new piece, Confidence is 10% Dress and 90% Sequins, has been an opportunity for me to explore movement that I simply find to be physically enjoyable. The piece is a dense 22 minutes of light hearted-fun of individuals finding their personal confidence – however it may be explored and expressed. In total, the cast consists of Providence Ballet Theatre, the PBT Junior Company and myself – 6 women plus 10 young adults ranging from 12 to 16 years old.”
“It has been an absolute joy working with each and every one of them. They bring such a high level of professionalism and respect for creative process. I truly am thankful for that as I am currently exploring my personal ‘groove’ and confidence, no pun intended, in creating works of dance. In speaking about my process, I put a lot of my contextual motivation behind the music that myself and my husband, Tony Lustig, arranged. I believe that the music can tell a story, so to speak, all on it’s own. I am very excited to be sharing the stage with such warm and welcoming performers. I leave you with words I urged the dancers in each rehearsal to embrace…”
‘Be awkward’, ‘Allow venerability’, ‘Find your own limits’ and last but not least ‘BE CONFIDENT’.
Dancers in Photo – Stephanie DeQuattro, Elizabeth Gharavi, Alicia Colantonio, Sara Barney, Holly Wray Corbett, Grace Miner – Photo Credit: Nikki Carrara
Providence Ballet Theatre’s Hansel and Gretel
When: Friday, April 8, 2016 @ 7:30pm & Saturday, April 9, 2016 @ 2:00pm
Where: The Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, Sapinsley Hall at RI College
600 Mount Pleasant Ave. Providence, RI 02908
Tickets: Adults $30.00 Seniors $20.00 Students and Children $15.00
Online or 401-456-8144
Article by Meghan Carmichael