Orlando Ballet presents Val Caniparoli's A Cinderella Story.

Orlando Ballet presents Val Caniparoli's A Cinderella Story.

Pas de Deux Orlando Ballet presents Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story. BY ESTEBAN MENESES D ance taps into a primal need of expression through mov...

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Pas de Deux Orlando Ballet presents Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story. BY ESTEBAN MENESES

D

ance taps into a primal need of expression through movement, synchronizing body and beat. But behind the pirouettes, sashays and arabesques of theatrical ballet, creative and administrative forces are at work to make this unquenchable art form a reality.

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BRION PRICE PHOTOGRAPHY

From left: Orlando Ballet Executive Director Caroline Miller with Shelley Kolin, Ava Doppelt and OB Board Treasurer Susan Bounds during A Tribute to Harriett Gala, A Celebration of Style, Glamour & Grace. The gala fundraiser took place Feb. 25 at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Orlando Ballet (OB) — Central Florida’s homegrown ballet company — has been the city’s link to professional dance since 1974. Recent changes in administration welcomed native Londoner Caroline Miller to the organization’s top executive position. She joined the staff on the heels of facilitating the successful merger in April 2016 of Dance UK — for whom she served as director for 10 years — with three other major dance organizations, — Caroline Miller, Orlando Ballet executive director forming the larger entity One Dance UK. “We want to give Orlando the ballet company it deserves; we have fantastic dancers, a great product onstage, but running a ballet company is very expensive,” says Miller, who moved to Orlando last August and discovered an “incred“Every ballet company all over the Park with the proviso from the city that ibly welcoming city with a very vibrant world struggles to remain sustainable,” it develop a plan to make the location its art scene.” she says. “We are now working on long- permanent home. An experienced arts leader — she was term business planning to try and make “Our ambition is to redevelop the recognized in the 2014 Evening Standard the company a more resilient, sturdy and building in the next few years,” Miller list of 1,000 most influential Londoners — stable organization for the city.” says. “[Philanthropist] Harriett Lake has Miller prioritizes sustainability; she has The Orlando Ballet company consists very generously donated us the first $2 worked on sustainable business models of 23 professional dancers residing in the million toward that project.” for the dance industry over the last five city; they are on 32-week contracts. It has been a successful first season years. Bred in the European system, “It makes Orlando a richer community for Miller; 2016-2017 opened in October where there is significantly more govern- to have artists of this caliber,” says Miller. with Michael Pink’s Dracula. ment funding for the arts and culture “Not just coming here for one show at the “It was very nice for me that the first than in the United States, Miller is prac- Dr. Phillips Center, but actually living show I worked on was created by a British tical about the different funding scale here and being part of the community.” choreographer.” locally and has already nurtured relaOn the development front, Orlando February’s Best of Broadway show tionships with individual philanthropist. Ballet has moved to Loch Haven Cultural and fundraising gala, a tribute to Lake, ORLANDO ARTS MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2017

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MICHAEL CAIRNS

“We not only want to build on our growing audiences and offer both big traditional ballets with live orchestras, but also contemporary ballet.”

MICHAEL CAIRNS

Orlando Ballet’s 2016-17 season company dancers and Artistic Director Robert Hill (bottom row, center).

raised $1 million through a special auction to set up a new scholarship fund for the Orlando Ballet School, which serves more than 1,200 students. The school is certified by the American Ballet Theatre and employs its age-appropriate national training curriculum. “The auction raised enough to cover all of our scholarships this year and provide a legacy for future years,” says Miller. The Ballet will give $460,000 in scholarships benefiting 127 children. “I was overwhelmed by the results.” Introduced last year, Come Dance With Us! is an initiative that benefits children with special needs; a program

geared toward adults with developmental disabilities is also offered. There’s also a focused effort to cultivate a taste for dance and the arts from a young age: for 20 years, before the beginning of the season in the fall, the ballet has bused in 16,000 second-graders from all over Orange County to experience their first fully staged ballet, usually Beauty and the Beast. Truly a Cinderella Story With sustainability, education and outreach plans in place, showtime approaches again for OB’s season finale: Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story.

Based on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1957 television musical Cinderella, the ballet is a love letter to the 1950s, when American families would gather around the TV to watch memorable live broadcasts. Set to music by the iconic composer Richard Rodgers, the madefor-TV Cinderella was one of them. The full production comes to Orlando via the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which premiered the American choreographer’s piece in 2004. “A light bulb hit me, and I went, ‘My gosh, the ’50s — the Rodgers and Hammerstein TV special!’” Caniparoli says, recounting the concept.

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FRANCESCA AGOSTINO PHELAN M. EBENHACK

A 41-year veteran of the San Francisco Ballet, Caniparoli’s choreography was last performed by the Orlando Ballet in 2006 — Going for Baroque — under former Artistic Director Bruce Marks. Caniparoli relies on a handful of close associates who have worked with him for years to stage his ballets at different companies around the world. For the Orlando Ballet collaboration, his staff from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet worked with Artistic Director Robert Hill and the dance company. Caniparoli will also be in town the week before opening night: “I try to get there for each ballet right before it goes onstage so I can coach it a bit, so that’s the case with this one.” Choreographed for a full company, A Cinderella Story demands a strong classical foundation, but is also influenced by modern jazz ballroom, swing and tap ORLANDO ARTS MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2017

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Above: Children learn the expressions of dance as part of the Ballet’s Come Dance With Us! program benefiting children with special needs.

dance. Modern dance gestures include hip swings, raised shoulders and intricate footwork. For the elaborate ballroom scenes, dancers wear high heels instead of pointe shoes; the lower body is choreographed and notated, but the upper body is rather free. And the classic Cinderella story? “The basics are there, the storyline is there. It’s just a little bit twisted here and there,” says Caniparoli. To propel the action, the storyline imitates and incorporates newsflashes and TV commercials based on the 1950s, simulating the experience of the original TV broadcast, for which original commercials were created at the time, Super Bowl-style. Besides retro scenery and couture costumes, A Cinderella Story features instrumental arrangements for jazz

band by Winnipeg bandleader Ron Paley. The 19-piece Central Florida Community Arts Big Band will perform Paley’s score live, under his own direction. As Orlando Ballet gears up for Cinderella, Miller and her team anticipate the move to Dr. Phillips Center’s Steinmetz Hall in 2020, more suitable for the company. “We not only want to build on our growing audiences and offer both big traditional ballets with live orchestras, but also contemporary ballet,” she says, commenting on the ongoing fundraising campaign for live music accompaniment (the Ballet has a fruitful relationship with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra), and on the 2017-2018 season opener Swan Lake in October, choreographed by Hill. “We also want to give our dancers the most exciting opportunities in a vari-

ety of work that they can dance in.” With a career that has taken her from the box office of a small suburban theater in London in the early 1990s to an Order of the British Empire medal earlier this year for her service to the arts (awarded by the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace), Miller — and OB — are contributing much to Orlando as a mainstay of the city’s cultural scene. A Cinderella Story runs May 5 and 6, at 8 p.m.; and May 7, at 2 p.m. To order tickets, please visit orlandoballet.org or call 844.513.2014. Orlando-based freelance writer Esteban Meneses is a graduate student of humanities at Rollins College in Winter Park, a “student” member of the Music Critics Association of North America and a regular contributor to Orlando Arts Magazine.

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