‘Mozart in Motion’ comes alive at the Benedum

November 10, 2018

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Terrence Orr is a huge fan of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music. Thus, it’s no surprise he pounced on the opportunity to present an entire evening with Mozart as the muse for choreographers, a program which will open the company’s season.

While Mozart is famous as a precocious musical genius, he also loved to dance from his earliest years and throughout his life. In addition to a short ballet and ballet music in his operas, Mozart wrote more than 12 hours of music for social dancing.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present “Mozart in Motion” on Oct 26 to 28 at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center. The program is George Balanchine’s “Divertimento No. 15″ and Jiri Kylian’s “Petit Mort” and “Six Dances.”

“Mozart in Motion” also will be the farewell appearances of retiring principal dancer Julia Erickson. In addition to the three performances in Pittsburgh, she’ll perform the program on the company tour to Minnesota in early November.

Orr says “Divertimento No. 15” is “a wonderful work which brings the music alive not just for individuals but also for its layers of movement for principal ladies and men and for the corps de ballet. Music goes in your ears and your eyes are filled with music because that’s the way he choreographed.”

Kylian’s two works are also deeply musical, Orr adds. ” ‘Petit Mort’ captures the essence of duets, the sensuality of that magic.” The other Kylian piece, “Six Dances,” uses similar props and is “hysterically funny. It’s not like cracking jokes. It’s the movement itself which creates the laughter.”

Erickson is from Seattle, Wash., and trained with one of Balanchine’s repetiteurs at Pacific Northwest Ballet. She joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2001 and became a principal dancer in 2009.

“I am really pleased to dance Mr. Balanchine’s ballet again at PBT and for my last performances as a member of the company,” Erickson says. “It feels great to represent my heritage and training. I think I understand him well and how he liked his ballets to be danced.”

She says Balanchine basically modernized classical ballet and paved the way for its evolution into more contemporary ballet and dance forms.

“He had incredible breadth. He was so prolific and had such incredible diversity and scope that he has become a huge part of the canon. It’s hard to find a successor because he was so monumentally influential.”

Balanchine was a particular musical choreographer whose visual imagination made artistic use of the full space of the stage and was extraordinarily inventive in his flexible grouping of dancers. He also was famously demanding on the dancers’ techniques.

“He’s like a teeth cleaning for your technique,” she says. “He presses you quickly and dynamically with variations in your rate of speed. Because of that your brain’s firing in a way that feels like brain and body are integrated. It’s very stimulating.”

Erickson is looking forward to starting a family with her husband Aaron Ingley, completing her undergraduate degree, and continuing as a freelance dancer.

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