Featuring a diverse dance scene, May performances present an eclectic mix of dance artistry in Seaside By Wendy O. Dixon
While traditional performing arts fans may say ballet is elegant and lovely, for mainstream and younger audiences, it can have a reputation for being stuffy and stuck in the past. But as the choreography, costuming and music all have changed and evolved along with mainstream culture, ballet is appealing to a broader audience and proving to be anything but stuffy. This May, Seaside offers a chance for everyone in the community to see for themselves with three weekends of dance performances featuring the famous Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, Ballet Pensacola and other professional dancers from companies all over the country. The events are sponsored by the Seaside Merchants Association.
On May 7, Seaside welcomes a return performance by Joffrey Ballet Concert Group. The performance company of the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City will have its second performance in Seaside. The show will include all Joffrey company members performing a variety of dances. “We will be performing works by Balanchine, Arpino, Rhoden and Lamb,” says Davis Robertson, choreographer and artistic director. “There are some exciting works that you will all get to see.”
Ballet Pensacola follows with a performance on May 14. Featuring both classical and contemporary dance, Ballet Pensacola promises a repertory evening. “We like to mix it up,” says Richard Steinert, artistic director for Ballet Pensacola. “We’ll have some ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ moments, and choreography from our ‘Divas’ tour, which includes music by Billie Holliday and Beyonce.” The company also will perform “Swan Lake’s” Pas de Trois. And fresh off the company’s recent performance of “Swing, Swang, Swung,” Ballet Pensacola dancers will perform a lighthearted dance with original choreography by Steinert and Christine Duhon, ballet mistress for Ballet Pensacola, and music by the “King of Swing” Benny Goodman.
Ballet Pensacola draws professional dancers from around the globe, and is a diverse performing organization. Ballet Pensacola not only finds audiences in the Florida panhandle, but also around the United States through its successful touring program. “What’s really cool about dance,” explains Steinert, “is that it really inspires the audience to get emotionally involved because there are no words. We cannot and do not prescribe anything about what they should be feeling. Unlike actors, we are interpreting with our bodies. With dance having such a resurgence now, performing in Seaside is a great banner of what this part of the artistic world means and how it is changing in society.”
On May 21, Seaside Dance Month finishes with a gala performance featuring various guest artists from New York City Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Bad Boys of Dance, BARE Dance Company, Yin Yue Dance Company, Ballet of Canada and more. “This will be an electric show filled with power, artistry, and pure excitement,” says Seleta Hayes Howard, Seaside Nutcracker ballet mistress and special projects director.
Seaside Dance Month is the inspiration of Daryl Davis, Seaside co-founder and patron of the arts. “After a standing ovation with Joffrey Ballet Concert Group’s performance last spring, Mrs. Davis decided to introduce the month of May as ‘Dance Month’ in Seaside as a way to bring more dance entertainment and appreciation into our community,” Hayes Howard says.
The vision of the series is not only entertainment, but also education. Davis has been supporting dance since 2012, bringing The Seaside Nutcracker to town each Thanksgiving and hosting dance workshops for aspiring performers. “Some dancers can’t fly to big companies in New York to train,” explains Hayes Howard, “so we are bringing the master teachers here. The goal is to engage the community in all forms of dance performance and also offer local dancers educational opportunities with master teachers and directors from around the world. This is a wonderful way to ignite a passion for dance in our community and continue educational opportunities for both recreational and pre-professional dance students of all ages.”
The upcoming performances are geared to thrill audiences of all ages, and to demonstrate the inclusiveness and diversity of the performing arts medium. “This year will be more magical than ever, with exciting performances that are ballet, contemporary, tap, hip hop and more,” Hayes Howard says. “We are bringing a variety of dance forms and want to inspire loyal and future dance enthusiasts.”
As music and style have evolved, so have the body types audiences will see at the upcoming performances. Ballet dancers have been held to harsh and near impossible body standards, to be sure. The physically demanding industry has had a reputation of favoring long and lean waif-like figures over the muscular, athletic types. Joffrey is one of the companies known for encouraging a diversity of body types. “There’s a movement in ballet regarding body types,” says Hayes Howard. “More companies are beginning to let go of the painfully-thin standard and be more open to body-type diversity. A dancer’s body is his or her instrument and must be in supreme shape, particularly in classical ballet where the lines need to be long and defined to show the artistry”.
During the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group’s visit the first week of May, Seaside is offering a dance workshop for local dancers. “Mr. Robertson travels the world and teaches in countries including Russia and Italy, and we are so fortunate to have him here again to teach our local talent,” says Hayes Howard.
The month of dance will also feature these local dancers. After putting in the hard work and enhancing their dance skills in the three-day workshop, local dancers will perform a demonstration at the Seaside Amphitheater on May 4, the final day of the workshop, at 5 p.m. “It’s a wonderful way to feature Mr. Robertson’s teaching to our community, and for dancers to share their work with family and friends,” Hayes Howard says.
Besides the workshop demonstration, all three dance performances are at 6 p.m. at the Seaside Amphitheater. “You won’t want to miss any of these amazing shows!”
Visitors who want to spend the night or weekend can contact the Cottage Rental Agency, The Homeowner’s Collection and Sunburst Luxury Collection for accommodations. To reserve a cottage and see the performance, visit Seasidefl.com/vacation/rentals.