Dance Alive presents ‘Rite of Spring — A Celebration of the Senses’

Principal dancers Andre Valladon and Reka Gyulai from the Dance Alive performance "Rite of Spring." These costumes are from the Tristan and Isolde portion of the production.(Brad McClenny/Staff photographer)

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth, the 100th anniversary of Morton Gould’s birth and the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”


‘Rite of Spring — A Celebration of the Senses’

What: Dance Alive National Ballet production featuring “Latin American Symphonette,” “Tristan and Isolde” and “Rite of Spring” performed with the UF Symphony Orchestra and guest artist Elizabeth Graham
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: $15-$35
Info: 392-2787,

Rite of Spring Bacchanal
What: Buffet and pre-show talk by conductor Raymond Chobaz and Abby Burton, daughter of composer Morton Gould.
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fackler Foyer East, Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: $50, includes dinner and talk
Info: 392-2787,

Such is the inspiration behind this Saturday’s “Rite of Spring — A Celebration of the Senses.”

The evening at the Phillips Center offers a diverse range of entertainment and ideas to engage music lovers to foodies, balletomanes to history buffs.

The production has Dance Alive National Ballet and the University of Florida Symphony Orchestra joining forces to present three distinct works, each performed by both the orchestra and the professional dance company.

“Everything about this particular program is of a very high standard,” says Dance Alive Artistic Director Kim Tuttle. “I think it’s a very balanced program too — equal parts fun, romantic and exciting.” Dance Alive is Gainesville’s sole professional ballet; UF School of Music’s Raymond Chobaz conducts the Symphony Orchestra.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Phillips Center. Tickets are available in advance at the door through the Phillips Center box office, 392-2787.

As the performance’s title reveals, the production includes — as its grand finale — the Stravinsky ballet “Rite of Spring.” First choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and performed by the Ballets Russes in 1913 Paris, “Rite” was riotous.

Unsuccessful a hundred years ago — due to its outré sight and sound — “Rite” eventually gained critical acclaim. The score would find fame as groundbreaking, and the choreography is now credited with ushering ballet into the modern era.

This year for the “Rite of Spring” centennial, dance companies across the globe are revisiting the ballet by mounting their own unique interpretations. Dance Alive National Ballet is no exception, and Tuttle has created original choreography for Saturday’s rendition.

A press release describes Tuttle’s vision as “dazzling technical display, effortless physicality and equal parts of refinement and abandon” from the professional dancers. Dancing the lead role is Dance Alive principal Julia Ponomareva.

“She’s a very complete dancer, very finished,” says Tuttle in an interview this week. “She’s very musical, and she captures immediately the character.

“Raymond always has a theme in all of the orchestra programs,” Tuttle explains. “So the theme for our program is a hundred years. He really wanted to do ‘Rite of Spring’ — it’s such a challenge — and everything else came together from there.”

The work’s changing elements make the music challenging, Tuttle says.

“The tempos change, the meter markings change and it all sounds strange — like taxi cab horns honking in New York, with an orchestra warming up at the same time. A 100 years ago, it was booed off the stage. Everything about it is exciting nervy, anti, titillating — but by the end when it drives home, you’re completely hooked.”

Tuttle credits Chobaz with the UF Symphony’s ability to perform the score. “He’s so apolitical about music,” she says. “Whatever the music is, he completely surrenders to it. The students can’t help but be drawn to it too; he’s an inspiration.”

“Celebration of the Senses” will open with another centennial — the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Morton Gould. The dancers and orchestra will perform Gould’s “Latin American Symphonette.” Dance Alive choreographer-in-residence Judy Skinner created the choreography, designed to showcase the dancers’ energy and sensuality.

Adding to the excitement is the presence of Abby G. Burton, the late Gould’s own daughter. According to Skinner, Burton initiated contact with Dance Alive in January, after a friend of hers saw a company performance of “Symphonette” and was impressed with the dancers’ interpretation.

Burton will address the public during the pre-show “Rite of Spring Bachannal,” Dance Alive’s social event at the Phillips Center Fackler Foyer East. Guests can enjoy wine from Opici Family Distribution and fine food from Sweetwater Branch Inn, Take Away Gourmet and Simply Cupcakes. Burton will share stories of her father Gould, and conductor Chobaz will offer an insider’s perspective on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” (The 6 p.m. “Bachannal” is a ticketed, separate event from the performance.)

Free to the public, however — and just across the lobby inside Fackler Foyers West — is a guest lecture from UF historian Dr. Peter Bergmann. His 6:45 p.m. talk will address how early 20th-century modernism foreshadowed the fascistic turn in European culture. The UF Center for European Studies sponsors the pre-performance lecture.

Back on stage, there is yet another musical anniversary to celebrate: In honor of Richard Wagner’s birth 200 years ago, Saturday includes choreography set to music from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.”

Like the opera and the Irish folklore that first inspired it, “Tristan and Isolde” portrays the romance of star-crossed lovers.

Dance Alive principals Reka Gyulai and André Valladon, of Brazil, dance the title roles. Internationally recognized soprano Elizabeth Graham will sing.

“It’s utter romanticism,” Tuttle says about the work. “Pure emotion, drama and beauty. Andy has such a power onstage, and Reka is just beautiful. The roles in this ballet are special to me and to the company’s history. And Liz Graham is such a jewel in this community.”

Ever collaborative with a wide array of area personalities and organizations, Tuttle says of Dance Alive’s latest production, “It’s like a fruitcake. Thick and rich, many flavors all mixed up.”

She pauses before she laughs to add, “A good fruitcake.”

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