The Upcoming Ballet Idaho Fleetwood Mac Collection, a program of three distinct, spectacular ballets, will be performed at the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts at Boise State on Friday, February 9 and Saturday February 10. Ballet Idaho has put together an interesting program that presents both traditional, classical ballet and contemporary ballet, plus a ballet commissioned especially by Ballet Idaho in a program that is sure to have something to please everyone.
Daniel Ojeda, a dancer and choreographer for Ballet Idaho, told The Boise Beat about the evening, saying, “For our February program, which will be featuring Raymonda’s Wedding, a ballet by our Artistic Director [Peter Anastos], a Russian classical ballet with a lot of traditional folk dances; Agon, a ballet made by George Balanchine in 1957, a neo-classical masterpiece, absolutely incredible, one of Igor Stravinsky’s most audacious scores which means it’s a nightmare; and I am choreographing a ballet to Fleetwood Mac music; and the title of that ballet is Together”.
Daniel is the choreographer behind Together. He explained the process they have been going through, saying that “The way that it goes essentially is that there is a production team and I choreograph and then I make the dance and I also put forth an artistic vision. Depending on the choreographer, that can sometimes be very specific, or occasionally choreographers like to be somewhat general and let the production team take the reins. Unfortunately though I’m like a pretty fastidious kind of guy when it comes to dance and my pieces, so I tend to get pretty specific with all the people involved”.
Daniel pointed out, “I’ve gone about obviously creating the movement, however Savannah Culp and Heather Schwalbe, Savannah I believe is 23 years old, she is a local visual artist and clothing designer, she designed and mock-up designed most of the costumes which are very inspired by what Fleetwood Mac wore, as well as what ballet dancers from the New York City Ballet and the ABT [American Ballet Theater] dancers wore in the 70’s and 80’s to class because they were like rockstars, super-stylish. So I wanted to like—actual rockstars, people who were like akin to rockstars in the ballet world; I just fused those two aesthetics together. So Savannah went about doing that as well as Heather; and then as far as sets and stuff are concerned, I basically just had an idea in my brain and threw it out there and I’ve been talking with Tony Hartshorn, who is the Production Manager; and we’ve been doing our best to just make whatever nonsense is in my head a reality”.
Daniel added that “I have attempted to make it purely abut the dancers and the music.There is a narrative structure, but it’s meant to consistently break the fourth wall in the sense that i’s not a ballet about—it’s not a typical ballet that is about something else, or meant to be evocative of an emotion or a time period or tell the story of Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet. It’s actually a ballet that’s supposed to be about a ballet company, it’s about the ballet dancers, it’s about the dynamic in Ballet Idaho as well as the dynamic in plenty of ballet companies all across America; and how that dynamic is very akin to the dynamic of a long-standing rock group.
It gets kind of muddy I think, when you are doing something so inherently intimate for a living; attempting to make an experience for the audience and through that you need to have a genuine experience yourself. When you’re dancing with somebody, dancing with a partner—when it’s real and you’re good at your job, it doesn’t matter who it is; and that can be kind of scary, because it’s hard to define”.
Fleetwood Mac of course, although known for their music since the latter 60’s, tended to be a revolving door for their guitarists and singers. Things changed in 1974, however, when they added folk-rock duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks as guitarist and vocalist, respectively. Following their smash Fleetwood Mac album in 1975, 1977’s Rumors became one of the top-selling albums in musical history, still selling briskly even today. This is what Daniel Ojeda chose to work with, blending the music with ballet movements. When asked about if it was a challenge blending the two, he said, “YES!!!! It’s hard, it’s really hard, because especially a lot of the contemporary movement that I’ve been attempting to explore right now, possesses a dynamic where instead of it being a bunch of vocabulary strung together, like with classical dance. We have a set vocabulary that means certain steps, French words tied to specific steps like glissade, assemblé; and so instead of ‘step-step-step’ it’s more like one long sentence that almost doesn’t even have any spaces in between it”.
Daniel added, “So it’s been really really hard, not only choreographically for myself, but also for the dancers dance-wise because it’s not necessarily that they’re accustomed to both contemporary dance and a contemporary choreographic process; and on top of that, attempting to get that to match with music that is inherently—it riles you up, rock music just is obviously always going to be a driving force for a lot of people; and especially when you’re dancing to it, it’s hard to not get carried away; and if you get carried away, then you’re no longer communicating with your partner and then that’s when things start to fall apart. So it’s really really hard, yes, to combine, especially right now, the fluidity of the sort of choreography that I have been attempting to create with—music with with a floor drumbeat with it—it’s really hard to combine the two.
The idea is really to attach—the narrative of the ballet, the pacing of it is actually very much so inspired by the relationships in the band, the sort of hedonistic undertone and how relationships just fell apart, but the band stayed together.And that’s the idea, is like relationships fall apart, but you still, like the ballet dancer, you need to keep it together. Hence the name of the piece. Especially with the Rumors album, right before going in the studio to record Rumors I think, John McVie and Christine McVie spilt after eight years. Obviously Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were always rocky and were having huge issues there; and then on top of that, Mick Fleetwood—I think his wife had an affair because he was in the studio so much; and then according to publicity very openly started sleeping with Stevie Nicks”.
He concluded, “It’s just like any artistic institution, there is maybe nothing as specific as that or as tumultuous, but it can happen. It can happen when, like I said earlier, your job is to create that intimate experience. And what other experiences can you pull from, other than your own intimate experiences. If they’re not there, you’ve got to make them happen with the person next to you. So totally like—I would have loved to have seen that, OMG!”.
In addition to Together, there are two other ballets on the program. Daniel said about them, “I think there’s something in the program for everyone. All three ballets, as far as the whole program is concerned, I think—everyone knows Fleetwood Mac; and whether they—like people who have only bought ten CD’s in their entire life, probably own Rumors. Actually, in the Boise Weekly this week, Rumors is, out of the ten albums they say are selling in the stores the most, the ninth is Rumors. I wonder if that has anything to do with the ballet? (Laughs)
But I think that as far as the program as a whole is concerned, there is definitely going to something for everyone and also I think, obviously, people want to see a ballet of Fleetwod Mac, even if it’s just for curiosity’s sake. So I think that not only in my own ballet, but as far as the entire rep is concerned, Raymonda’s Wedding and Agon, together it is going to be definitely— there has got to be something for everyone, because it is so far-reaching, the scope. Raymonda’s Wedding is one of the oldest ballets in existence; Agon was made in 1957, just at the height of neo-classical ballet; and then you have a completely new ballet, the Fleetwood Mac, that’s being created in 2018. So that’s the cool thing about our Winter Repertory and why it’s one of my favorites personally. Ballet Idaho always does its best to be far-reaching and really flex it’s muscles as far as versatility is concerned. It’s a pretty rare thing for classical companies to do that”.
Meredith Stead, Ballet Idaho’s Marketing Director who had joined us for this conversation, added, “Our February show is always the most ‘Ballet Idaho’ you can get because we do have our roots in classical, but we also always really try to work in and promote the local artists and the people that you [Daniel] work with on your program. He has a history of bringing in local visual artists and local musicians and others to help him in his creative process. It really does work out better.
Because of the classical to super-modern contemporary and the bridge in-between; it’s pretty cool show and he’s [Daniel] right, it may not suit everybody well—I love it all because it flexes—it really pushes our dancers. The person you just saw doing a variation over here, they may be something completely different in a contemporary movement maybe that you haven’t seen before, so I think it definitely has something for everybody, which is what makes it really cool. But also, if you appreciate movement and music, you’ll probably appreciate all of it.
The Stravinsky piece is really interesting, Stravinsky and George Balanchine worked together to create the music to go with the piece. The music was created specifically for this ballet. Today, it is one of the most technically challenging ballets, this Agon, according to Balanchine. So everyone has been working so hard on it. The Repertoire from the Balanchine Trust came in November to set the piece on our company and they’ve been working on it ever since, that’s a lot of time for a 24 minute ballet. They really put a lot into it; and the Repertoire is coming back again this Saturday to clean it up and make sure the show is on point and make sure the show is ready for the next weekend. He’ll be working on it all next week too, he’s out of New York. We’re all really excited to see it!”.
Ballet Idaho’s February program, Fleetwood Mac Collection, promises to be a spectacular blend of music and dance. With the evening’s blend of classical, neo-classical and contemporary dancing, the program will give everyone a good vision of what ballet is about today. And with Together, commissioned by Ballet Idaho, guests will get to see the premiere of a new ballet created here in the Gem State. This is sure to be an event to be enjoyed by all.
Fleetwood Mac Collection
Friday, February 9 and Saturday, February 10, 2018
Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts
2201 W Cesar Chavez Lane
Boise, ID 83725
Phone: (208) 343-0556
All ballet photography by Steve Smith, courtesy of Ballet Idaho
Daniel Ojeda portrait photo by Matthew Wordell.