The last time American Ballet Theatre performed at Segerstrom Center was March 5-8, 2020 with the World Premiere of ABT’s “Of Love and Rage,”
Days later, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of countless arts productions around the country.
Then on April 25 this year, something remarkable occurred. I was one of about 400 patrons allowed inside Segerstrom Hall to enjoy the first live arts production in more than a year.
Fittingly, it was an afternoon of short works from ABT called “Uniting in Movement.” This was not an easy concert to stage. The artistic staff of ABT along with 18 dancers developed and rehearsed several works that culminated in an exhilarating live performance which was captured on video and is available for streaming on demand through May 26 at the Center’s website, www.scfta.org.
“Uniting in Movement” is comprised of works of contemporary choreographers Lauren Lovette and Darrell Grand Moultrie, each with very personal and unique visions for the future of ballet. The program also pays homage to ABT’s classical heritage with a virtuosic showcase of ballet technique Grand Pas Classique choreographed by Victor Gsovsky, and the “Swan Lake” Act II pas de deux with choreography after Lev Ivanov.
According to information from Segerstrom Center, in order to perform “Uniting in Movement,” ABT was in residence at the Center beginning March 22. The choreographers, dancers and ABT artistic staff lived and rehearsed in a quarantined “bubble,” isolating themselves at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel across the street from the Center, venturing out only to rehearse in the Center studios and to perform in Segerstrom Hall.
All rehearsal and performance activity adhered to strict medical and safety guidelines, with an initial quarantine and testing period prior to the start of ABT’s residency.
One of the works on the program, “La Follia Variations,” was choreographed by Lovette, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet who has choreographed two works for NYCB and two for ABT. Ironically, she originally created “La Follia Variations” for the ABT Studio Company and completed the piece on the day the ABT studios closed in March of 2020.
According to Lovette, rehearsing with the dancers for the Segerstrom performance meant overcoming challenges and working within the health restrictions mandated by the pandemic.
“I was in a bubble, I had to wear a mask the whole time, had to eat my meals alone,” said Lovette. She could not even touch the dancers while they were learning the choreography. But she said they still had fun.
“It was a blast to work with the dancers because it had been a year since they had done anything,” she said. “It’s hard when you have not danced in a year, and the music for this piece is relentless, but in just a couple of weeks they had their skills back. I’m so proud of the dancers and how hard they worked.”
Lovette is right about the relentless rhythm of her piece, which opened the Segerstrom program. It’s a celebration of dance for eight dancers who seem to be in perpetual motion, adorned in bright colors that brought positive energy to the piece.
“It’s been grey and barren—everything feels like a ghost town” due to the pandemic, said Lovette. “With the colors I wanted to bring some life back. It’s more of an escape—remembering the reasons I love to dance, giving the dancers that opportunity. It’s a beautiful piece.”
“These creations reflect a time of recalibration on how we create and deliver new work, reinvent how to gather together to create, and what it means to use this art form to lift us all, artist and audience alike,” said Kevin McKenzie, ABT Artistic Director.
Segerstrom Center President Casey Reitz said, “As you can imagine, Uniting in Movement is a complex project requiring the combined, or uniting, resources and experience of both the Center and ABT, particularly during this period of quarantine. The project aligns with the mission of our Center for Dance and Innovation, which was established to support and advance the creative and sometimes even experimental process of developing new works by talented artists. We are especially proud of how ‘Uniting in Movement’ so beautifully confirms the resilience and indomitable spirit of the arts and artists.”
“Uniting in Movement” will be available on demand through My 26. Tickets are $25 per household at www.SCFTA.org.