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Fort Wayne Ballet, Too

Experimental annual summer workshop stages its most ambitious performance yet

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


When choreographer David Ingram arrives in Fort Wayne the second week of June, he’ll have about two weeks to put together the program for the Fort Wayne Ballet Too performances scheduled for June 24 at the Cinema Center.

And Ingram isn’t 100% sure of what he’s doing yet.

Which isn’t to say that he’ll arrive in Fort Wayne completely unprepared. Ingram started his dancing career at the Fort Wayne Ballet; after college joined the Louisville Ballet and he is currently at the North Carolina Dance Theater in Charlotte. He was in Fort Wayne this past winter, scouting locations for the Fort Wayne Ballet Too performance, and he’s worked out the pieces with dancers in North Carolina.

This is also the third time he’ll be working with the Fort Wayne Ballet on original work — in 2007 he staged an interpretation of Swan Lake in the fountain of Friemann Square, followed in 2008 by a performance of original work in the parking lot of the City-County building.

So Ingram knows the territory, he’s a proven choreographer, and he has the confidence of Fort Wayne Ballet Artistic Director Karen Gibbons-Brown, who taught Ingram during his early Fort Wayne days.

But the project Ingram has in mind seems pretty ambitious, and pulling all the parts together could prove challenging.

Then again, that’s part of what makes the Fort Wayne Ballet Too program — the FWB’s annual workshop/performance where they present an original work by an up-and-coming choreographer — so exciting and interesting. “We have about a week-and-a-half to pull ourselves together,” says Barbara Shoen, a dancer at the Fort Wayne Ballet. “Usually we have two months to do a ballet, so it’s more difficult to get everything clean, but it’s kind of exciting at the same time.”

“We do so much classical during the season, and working with new choreographers gives us the opportunity to expand what we have,” adds dancer Lucia Rogers. “These days, you can’t just be a ballet dancer or just be a contemporary dancer, you have to be able to do it all, and I think this really exposes us to the different varieties of dance and really keeps us on our toes. You have to catch on quickly and perfect it quickly.”

This year’s Fort Wayne Ballet Too could offer plenty of opportunity for the dancers to expand their skill set, since what Ingram is planning involves several different parts. He wants to stage the pieces in public spaces around Fort Wayne, and in indoor spaces constructed specifically for the purpose. He also wants to film the pieces, and the finished product of all this will be what the audience will see at the June 24 event at Cinema Center.

Ingram envisions the film being different than a typical filmed dance performance. “It won’t be like you watching from outside, it will be you actually moving with the dancers, creating movement like a dancer, and watching the dancer at the same time,” he says. “You’ll see big ballet companies, and they’ll have nine cameras set up, and they’ll cut and edit pieces of the performance. When I see that, I feel like I’m just switching seats in the audience. This will sort of break that fourth wall, where we can get up close, go around behind… we’ll have many more angles than just from the front.”

The film element adds a whole new level of complexity to the project, and Ingram is enlisting Valerie Sullivan Fuchs, a video artist from Louisville who has worked with Ingram on projects before, to help him out. “I’ve done eight or nine independent projects where the camera is basically another dancer,” Ingram says. “We use tracks and steady-cams and things like that to help us really get a lot of motion. It’s tough, but it usually helps if you know exactly what’s going to come next.”

Part of Ingram’s inspiration for the project came from the pervasiveness of television and film screens in our society. “I was raised as a spoiled brat in the 80s growing up in front of a television,” Ingram says. “I kind of feel that the only time people from my generation really pay attention to something is when it’s on a screen.”

Though a film may be antithetical to live performance, Gibbons-Brown says part of the object of the experimental work in Fort Wayne Ballet Too is to change the way audiences experience dance. In previous years, the answer to that has been to stage performances in “non-traditional space” and close the distance between performer and audience. This year, she says, Ingram is trying to close that distance by having the camera “stand in” and be a part of the dancers, and capture some of the energy of live performance. And of course, finding ways to keep dance relevant is what Fort Wayne Ballet Too is all about. “Dance companies are so structured with our seasons, and finances are so tight, that we don’t always have those experimental and creative workshops readily at our fingertips to create and allow emerging choreographers to experiment with trained bodies,” Gibbons-Brown says. “Creating something different was the original intent of this program. It allows the boxes to continue to stretch in a safe environment.”

Fort Wayne Ballet presents Fort Wayne Ballet, Too Extreme
Cinema Center
437 East Berry Street
Wednesday, June 24 at 7:30 pm and 9 pm.
Performances are FREE

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.