Some of the most talented ballet dancers in the world are coming to perform in Columbus, Georgia this weekend. The American Ballet Theatre is an internationally celebrated cultural institution known as America’s National Ballet Company because of their dedication to preserving and extending the great legacy of classical dancing.
This Sunday evening, Columbus will get to experience ABT's 2023 Fall Studio Company Tour. The performance will take place at RiverCenter for the Performing Arts Sunday, November 12 at 7:30PM.
To better understand the level of artistry and prestige that is ABT, we spoke with Studio Company Artistic Director and former ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky. Read on to discover the many reasons this is a performance not to miss! (Get tickets here.)
Q: If you could, will you give us some insight on just how incredibly talented these dancers are, and the type of work that they're presenting with this tour?
A: Sure. So, we will be touring with 16 dancers who are between the ages of 17 and 21. They all hail from our school here, but also from other areas around the globe. For this tour, we have dancers from Korea, Japan, Brazil, Spain, the Philippines and the States. They're really some of the most talented, focused and devoted dancers in their age group in the world.
Q: What's different about these dancers, specifically?
A: Well, I mean, a a lot of folks at this age go off to college and sort of figure out who they are and what they wanna do with their lives. Most people in this age bracket are still searching for how they can make a positive contribution to their world. You know, they're still exploring who they are, and codifying their values.But these dancers have done that already. Several years ago.These, these folks know what they want and they've worked incredibly hard to get to this level. Ballet is a short career, so they have to get started at a young age and make the most of it.
In our Studio Company, we try to just throw a lot at them. It helps us to deliver well-rounded artists and young people of character to ABT's main company, or occasionally, to other leading classical companies around the world. In this program, they create new works with choreographers regularly. They also tackle classic works but we work to provide a broad range of ballet genres and present maybe 35 to 40 performances in any given season. The venues range from big opera houses to museums and even retirement homes. We are primarily in more commissional theaters, but we pride ourselves on being pretty versatile. As long as there is a good floor for the dancers to keep them safe, we can put on a show.
Q: Wonderful. So, what does this tour look like for you all?
A: Well, we are just kicking off. We just got back from Mexico where we presented a joint performance with the National Ballet Company of Mexico. That was really exciting. Then this week, we kick off our Fall tour, which will be two weeks of performances – mostly throughout the South.
This tour consists of a lot of new repertoire that was just created by choreographers in the last few weeks. Most of the rep is new to us this season. They've learned it all in about two months, and it's a very exciting mix of styles.
Q: Is this variety intentional? Why?
A: Absolutely. Our main company at ABT is a touring company, and so this tour reflects our company's overarching mission to try to engage a broad audience through our performances – while giving our dancers the extensive range of performance experiences they need to continue to get to the next level.
Q: What makes an ABT tour like this one unique?
A: Well, I think it's really important to know that none of the numbers are over 15 minutes. This is good for our dancers because it provides them the opportunity to get to do all sorts of different ballets. It works for our audiences too, in that if one piece isn't an audience member's cup of tea, the next piece will be for sure. Although of course, (laughing) the goal is that everyone will respond favorably to every piece.
Q: Understood, but it sounds like a very accessible way for audiences to experience ballet.
A: Absolutely. It is! This tour is really an eclectic mix of, of ballets. The styles range from classical works to neoclassical works to more contemporary works. It's all set to music that ranges from orchestral works like classical Tchaikovsky, to Glazunov and Rodrigo y Gabriela, and even some Schubert this year.
Q: Wonderful! What's one thing you hope this tour achieves when it comes to audiences?
A: I always personally love to see our programming opening up some stereotypes about dance. Especially about ballet in particular. It's important to us that we offer an opportunity for audiences to experience ballet in a new, accessible way.
Q: Okay, so that leads into my next question about accessibility in the arts. Is that something that's important to you?
A: Yes. I believe it's urgent and, and paramountfor us to engage new audiences and bring young people into the theaters and to democratize dance. We cannot perpetuate the elitist perception of what ballet is to so many. I think there are several angles that you can come at that task. One thing that we've been trying to do a lot since the pandemic is to put a lot of works online for free on YouTube. We have full ballets, lots of cool excerpts and some kind of fun little narrative videos available on our channel for free. It's been a huge goal of mine personally. I think it's imperative we get some dance content out there that anyone with an internet connection can access.
I'm also just really proud of these dancers, and want to capture what they do indelibly somehow. I'm of a generation where we didn't have cell phones. We have very little to show for all those years of, of dancing on the stage. You know, aside from arthritis. (Laughing) And sure, there's beauty and magic in having a performance only last in memory after the curtain falls. But at the same time, when you come to be in your mid-forties it's easy to wish you had something digital to look back on, because it certainly feels like another lifetime. So that's been one angle we've approached the engagement task with.
ABT also has a separate engagement wing in the education department. That branch goes out into schools to reach kids on behalf of our art form. They focus on certain ballets and characters in educational programming. The hope is that by reaching kids at a young age, then maybe they'll come see performances the main company presents specifically for schools for free. We'll be presenting school performances throughout our tour as well.
The other thing is the challenge of making ticket prices affordable. And sure, it's all relative of course, but when you compare going to see our Studio Company to going to see a Broadway show, or even a movie these days, we've worked hard to ensure our ticket prices are accessible to as many people as possible.
Q: Thank you for your work to make the arts accessible in these tangible ways. It's so very important. Can you speak to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts?
A: Yes! It's true that representation matters. It does. It's been incredibly important to us to ensure folks from all walks of life and backgrounds can see themselves represented in our dancers on that stage or in the credits as choreographers. I think it's just so very important. We're so fortunate to have a very wide range of folks in studio company who come from all walks of life and ethnicities. So yeah, I think that's one of the areas I'm most proud of. Because not only do our dancers meet the standard, but they also redraw those lines. They explode the standard, and it's incredible to witness. Some of these dancers from this tour will be big stars someday.
Q: No doubt. Okay, so here's my final question: What do you want our audience to know before they see this show?
A: Hmm. What a thoughtful question. I think it's really important to know that what what audience members are going to see are dancers who are pursuing their dreams. And, their dreams are being realized right in front of our eyes while they perform on that stage. These are dancers who lived through the pandemic. We've all lived through the pandemic, but when it hit, it hit us all differently. Dance is a very sort of social activity. So, you know, they really had what they loved taken away from them in a very big way.
Some students, some dancers took a different direction. We saw many who went to college or pursued another occupation or hobby during that time.
Not these dancers. What you're left with now are the dancers who stuck it through. These are the dancers who are most passionate and most talented. They have all the ingredients – and most importantly of course, they have the heart and mind for it.
So, when you come to see this year's ABT Studio Company Tour, you're going to see dancers who know what it means to treat each show as if it might be their last. They always leave their hearts on that stage. So, even if you're total novice to ballet, and even if you hate classical music or Spanish guitar, I hope maybe you can appreciate the human commitment it took for them to still be dancing on that stage. ◼️
If You Go:
When: Sunday, November 12 7:30 PM
Where: RiverCenter for the Performing Arts