June 19, 2018
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Rites of Spring: Robinson Ballet’s April shows allow dancers to contribute personal expression

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — If the winter performances of “The Nutcracker” are a chance for all dancers of all ages in the Robinson Ballet to shine in a classic ballet setting, then the dance company’s spring show is an opportunity for dancers to experiment, reinvent and learn new things. Where else in the area will you see jazz, modern dance and ballet, all in one show?

“It’s a fun, challenging diversion from strict, classical ballet,” said Maureen Robinson, co-founder of the company with her husband, Keith Robinson. “It allows [the dancers] a chance to get out of their comfort zones. It lets us work with new people. And it’s always great to watch it all come together.”

This year’s spring performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 1 and 2, at The Grand in Ellsworth, and at 7 p.m. April 15 and 16 at Hauck Auditorium in Orono. Additionally, the children’s ballet, a setting of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty,” is scheduled for 3 p.m. April 2, at The Grand and 3 p.m. April 16, at Hauck. In total, both performances feature more than 40 dancers, some as young as 8, and some of whom have been dancing for decades.

There are five pieces by five choreographers in the evening performances. Keith and Maureen Robinson, Terry Lacy, Stevie Dunham and Amanda Fahey all contribute their own unique vision to the program. Lacy’s dance, “A Goodwill Story,” takes place inside a theoretical Goodwill bin, with dancers using carts and white sheets to create a home for a homeless man, who falls in love with a young woman. A fun big band soundtrack gives the piece a jazzy edge — and affords the male dancers a chance to lift and swing the females.

“Terry and Keith both teach dance at UMaine, and they’ve been amazingly good at cultivating some of our best male dancers,” said Maureen Robinson. “We’re really very fortunate to have them with us for a while now.”

Robinson credits her husband with teaching UMaine dancers such as Tyler Evans, Land Cook and Matt Sevey the ballet basics.

“Keith didn’t start ballet until high school, and our college dancers are in the same boat, so Keith is in a unique position to understand how to teach them,” she said. “They started as athletes and actors, so they have built-in strength that has really served them and us very well.”

Keith Robinson’s piece, “Looking Up,” uses the music of Canadian indie classical ensemble Bell Orchestre, and creates shapes and forms with a cast of 25 dancers. Inspired by both the night sky and by mythological figures, it trades on Robinson’s mastery of using the human body as a means of painting a deeply evocative picture.

“Comptine d’un autre ete-L’apres-midi,” which translates to “Rhyme of Another Summer  Afternoon,” was created by choreographer Amanda Fahey. The dance evokes memories of childhood, from going to school to playing tag in the backyard. It’s a theatrical modern dance piece, with which Fahey, a UM graduate and longtime area dancer, makes her choreographical debut.

Maureen Robinson revives a piece she created more than 10 years ago, with the Ballet’s performance of “Morning Walk.” This lyrical, lively ballet piece features original music created for hammer dulcimer, piano and fiddle, and performed by Maine musicians, Malcolm Dalglish, Grey Larson and Pete Sutherland.

Finally, Robinson Ballet’s Stevie Dunham has created a modern dance piece titled “The Ring,” which draws on images of the circus, in which a ringmaster tries to retain control of his animals, clowns and performers. Dunham, known for her muscular movement and unique visual style, also dances in the piece.

That’s not all that is set for this month with the Ballet, however. The annual children’s ballet, to be performed once in Ellsworth and once in Orono, is an interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and features a large cast of both younger, elementary and middle school-aged dancers and some older, stronger teenage and adult dancers.

“Where ‘The Nutcracker’ allows everyone in our audience to enjoy our dancers, the spring show didn’t always have that element,” said Maureen Robinson. “We use the children’s ballet as a chance to keep all our parents and relatives and friends involved in our productions. And the kids get really excited about it.”

The portion of “Sleeping Beauty” that will be performed is the celebration of the marriage of the Princess Aurora (Stevie Dunham) and Prince Florimund (Matt Sevey), who with a kiss has broken a sleeping spell cast upon the princess by the wicked Fairy Carabosse. Among the wedding guests are Little Red Riding Hood (Hallie Semmel), Cinderella (Haley Williams), Puss-in-Boots (Land Cook), and Tom Thumb (Nathan Williams).

Additionally, Stevie Dunham has choreographed a special youth jazz piece, which at The Grand performances will feature special musical accompaniment by the All Saints Catholic School Jazz Band, although the Hauck performance will use prerecorded music.

“It’s often hard to find people to collaborate with, and we always really love to have that element in our performances,” said Robinson. “It just adds to the show overall, and lets us spotlight even more talented people in our community. They’re going to be really fun evenings.”

Tickets for the Robinson Ballet performances are $14 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for students and children. Children’s matinee tickets are $5; combination tickets for both performances are $15 for adults, $10 for children. For information on Robinson Ballet, visit robinsonballet.org.

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