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Ballet Director's Choice

Colorado Ballet dancers in “Traveling Alone” (Photo: Terry Shapiro)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Colorado Ballet — when the company showcases a bit of artistic freedom through their production of “Ballet Director’s Choice.”

This year, Amy Seiwert’s  “Traveling Alone,” which debuted at Colorado ballet in 2012, makes a return, as well as Edwaard Liang’s “Feast of the Gods.” And, Sandra Brown, a former soloist with American Ballet Theatre and currently ballet mistress for Colorado Ballet, presents the world premier of her new ballet set to music by DeVotchKa, “The Last Beat.”

Colorado Ballet dancers Chandra Kuykendall and Dominico Luciano, who have partnered together quite a bit this past season. The two dancers are eye-catching, both on their own and through their partnership. The pairing is even more impressive due to the fact that Luciano is in his first season with Colorado Ballet, while Chandra has danced with the company for 16 years.

While they aren’t dancing together during this particular performance, they took the time to chat with {Dd} about their budding onstage partnership and about the company’s current production.

Dd: What does dancing the repertoire in “Ballet Director’s Choice” mean to you?

Chandra Kuykendall: In “Ballet Director’s Choice,” I perform in two of the three pieces, both of which I danced sections of at the Arvada Center’s “An Evening Under the Stars.”

“Feast of the Gods,” has a lovely pas de deux, which was created on myself and Colorado Ballet principal dancer Alexei Tuykov in 2009.  Because it was created on me, it is comfortable and suits my body lines and movement quality well. The pas is a poetic section with a subtle intensity.

The other piece is “Traveling Alone.” The trio section from this piece was also created on me. It features one woman and two men, and is such an amazing section. There is no story behind the trio, but the expressive movement and music make me feel regret and heartache — it’s very emotional.

Dd: You and Domenico have a pretty spectacular partnership. Tell me about it. Do you offer him a bit of a mentorship since you’ve been with the company for years?

CK: Domenico and I have a very special connection. We got along well from our first day in the studio together, and our relationship has grown from there. Over this past season, we danced together in one of my favorite ballets, “Giselle,” followed by “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella.” We developed a very close partnership working on these ballets. Physically, we have complimentary lines. Emotionally, we are at a similar place in our lives and careers, and understand each other well. He is an amazing partner, very attentive and caring. I feel lucky that our artistic director, Gil Boggs, had the vision of the two of us together when he hired Domenico.

I may have mentored Domenico a bit from my years of experience at Colorado Ballet, but I feel it is more 50/50 in our partnership. He has helped me grow as a dancer and an artist.  He has taught me so much and I hope I have done the same for him. We miss dancing with each other in “Ballet Director’s Choice,” as we are in different pieces for this program. But I have had the pleasure to see Domenico work from the side of the studio. Too often you don’t get to fully enjoy your partner’s performance because you are focused on your own work when dancing together.

Dd: It’s your first year with Colorado Ballet. What do you enjoy about Denver and Colorado Ballet specifically?

Dominico Luciano: I’m so excited to have joined Colorado Ballet last summer. The transition for me has been very smooth. I love the diversity at Colorado Ballet. It is such an eclectic company with dancers from all over the world, and that makes me feel part of an international environment. International and eclectic also describe the repertoire choices of the artistic director. Gil’s vision is definitively broad, and that is very important for my artistic growth.

I was living in Houston for the past nine years, so Denver it is definitively a big change, with the mountains, the snow in the winter and the fresh air.

Dd: Tell me about this partnership, it is an interesting dynamic since she has been with Colorado Ballet for years and this is your first season.

DL: Interesting it is the right word for this partnership. I have to say that I feel very fortunate to be dancing with her at this time in my career. We come from different training, background and experiences, but I think Gil had amazing intuition in putting us together.  We were lucky to be introduced to each other during “Giselle” rehearsals.  The magic of this ballet made us very close. We both danced the leading roles before, so knew the connection between Albrecht and Giselle was essential to the ballet. We were on the same page from the beginning, both searching for the same emotional experience to deliver on stage. Gil and Sandy [Brown] were instrumental for the process as well. Chandra and I have also become good friends outside the studio. She and her husband have an amazing family, who are always very welcoming to me.

For “Ballet Director’s Choice,” we are not dancing together, and, after seven months of dancing together each day, it is a bit different. Of course, we both enjoy dancing with other dancers as well. And, now, we have the opportunity to watch each other from the front of the room and enjoy each others dancing. Chandra is amazing in “Traveling Alone.”  Her quality is impressive, and her artistic sensitivity is touching.

 

“Ballet Director’s Choice” runs March 28 – 30 at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. For more information visit, ColoradoBallet.org.

Written by Erica Prather

Erica Prather

Erica Prather has been published in Redbook Magazine, The Denver Post, Travel Trade, 303 Magazine, and a variety of blogs. She has danced since the age of five, and, when not involved in the Denver arts scene, spends a large majority of her time in a Microbiology lab.