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Inner space

Fort Wayne Ballet, Too series showcases original new work

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2010-06-07


Every summer, the Fort Wayne Ballet presents a performance of an original work under the moniker Fort Wayne Ballet, Too. It’s a showcase for experimental, new work by an emerging choreographer, and the program is designed to highlight the types of dance or movement that a typical performance season may not have room for.

For 2010, former Fort Wayne Ballet student David Ingram is returning to create a new work. After beginning his career at the Fort Wayne Ballet, Ingram joined the Louisville Ballet after college and is now at the North Carolina Dance Theater in Charlotte.

This is the fourth Fort Wayne Ballet, Too program that Ingram has been involved with. Part of the Fort Wayne Ballet, Too aesthetic is staging these performances in “non-traditional space,” and judging by past work, Ingram seems to have an affinity for wide open spaces: his first original work with Fort Wayne Ballet in 2007 took place outdoors in the fountain of Friemann Square; in 2008, the parking lot of the City-County building served as a performance space. And during our interview, Ingram talked briefly about possibly staging a future work in an enormous field.

In fact, Ingram visits Fort Wayne at various times throughout the year and scouts possible locations for performances. “I’ll run these ideas past Karen (Gibbons-Brown, FWB’s Artistic Director), and she’ll sort of bring me back to reality,” Ingram laughs. “I’ll say ‘can we get in the General Electric building and jump around on the roof?’ ‘No.’ ‘Can we get zip lines between the two tallest buildings…’ ‘No!’”

But the performance spaces in the 2010 edition of Fort Wayne Ballet, Too are decidedly less wide open. In fact, some of them seem to verge on the claustrophobic. Ingram seems interested in focusing the view of the audience, really directing their eyes to the subject of a performance by framing it in a particular way.

Fort Wayne Ballet, Too takes place on Saturday, June 19 at the Fort Wayne Ballet’s main studios at 324 Penn Avenue. The audience will enter the building and visit three different rooms, one after the other. Ingram describes these rooms as intricately constructed environments. “Instead of dropping the curtain and changing set, we’ll be able to do a lot more detail,” he says.

What he describes sounds pretty elaborate. The floor and ceiling of the first room will be covered with black balloons, with a dancer in the center. That forces your eye-level to drop — sort of like the black bars on a widescreen TV — so it will be on the level as the dancer’s movement. “When the dancer moves, you’ll see the some of the balloons on the floor take the shape of the dancer’s movement,” Ingram says.

Ingram “stole” the idea of framing the dancer in this way from the artist Francis Bacon. “(Bacon) does a lot of shock stuff, I guess you could say,” Ingram explains. “But past that, I really like his depth and his contrast and how he frames his subject. I enjoy his backgrounds and how he makes those push toward the center of what he’s doing.” And in fitting with its artistic inspiration, the movement in this environment Ingram sees as being chaotic and filled with striking contrasts.

The next room is a little more serene. Ingram calls it the “black and white” room — the floor covered in a big black cloth, with mounds of “snow” in the corners. The dancer stands in a hole in the fabric, which is lifted up during the performance until it’s over the dancer’s head and she’s centered in a column of snow.

Ingram calls the final room the “mud room.” “I’ll ask forgiveness later,” he laughs. Actually, it doesn’t sound that messy. The performance centers on two figures, one an impeccably coiffed female — so clean and “put together” that she almost doesn’t appear human — and the other a male… well, he’s covered in clay. “We’ll cake Ben (Needhamwood, one of Ingram’s collaborators) in clay and then let it dry,” Ingram says. “When he moves as he’s trying to communicate with this girl, he’ll crack a little bit.”

The descriptions might make it sound as though the program skimps on the movement and dance in favor of these elaborate tableaus, but as Ingram tells it, the environments are there to help highlight the dancer. Though he says he hopes to evoke a different kind of mood or feeling in each environment, there is a common theme running through all three: the movement of the dancer has an echo or a reflection in some other object or objects in the environment — the balloons, the snow, the clay.

Ingram says the basic idea comes from studying theories of movement that contend that any kind of movement can be artistic and expressive. He ties it in with body language. “As infants, ‘body language’ is our first language,” he says. “We start to learn expressions, picking up expression by watching and reading movements rather than listening.”

Heady stuff, maybe, but turning these abstract theories into performance is one of the things Ingram says excites him about being a choreographer and creating new work.

Fort Wayne Ballet, Too happens on Saturday, June 19 at FWB’s studios on 324 Penn Avenue. Check the Fort Wayne Ballet’s website (fortwayneballet.org) for more details.

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