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Connecticut Ballet celebrates 35 years as professional troupe

May 1, 2017

Times are tough for professional performing arts groups.

Uncertainty with the stock market, political divisiveness and tight budgets for many have contributed to the demise of numerous organizations over the years — including the Hartford Ballet and the Connecticut Grand Opera & Orchestra, for example.

But at the Connecticut Ballet — founded in Stamford and now with offices in Hartford — its 35th anniversary celebration brings hope rather than trepidation, said Director Brett Raphael in a recent interview. Growing audiences and new venues are the norm, he added.

To celebrate its landmark anniversary, the company will present “Thirty Something” in Hartford and Stamford, showcasing the strengths of its troupe of 22 dancers and the range of its repertoire. In Stamford, the production takes place Saturday, May 6, at the Palace Theatre. And to continue the anniversary theme, all tickets will be about half-price: $35.

Raphael has designed a “greatest hits program ... to demonstrate the range of styles and genres the company has presented” during its 35 seasons.

On the program, with descriptions by Raphael, are: Michel Fokine’s historic one-act ballet, “Les Sylphides,” which premiered in Paris in 1909 featuring legendary dancers Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky. Music is by Chopin. Frequently cited as the first ballet to be simply about mood and dance, the Connecticut Ballet premiere was in 1986.

Lila York’s contemporary ballet “Strays” will be set to Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. York, one of the foremost female choreographers of her generation, has created works for Boston Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet and Scottish Ballet. Her home company is Paul Taylor Dance.

The “rousing finale” stems from Connecticut Ballet’s 2008 “Tribute to Broadway” program. It will feature classic dances from Bob Fosse, who created such hits as “Sweet Charity,” “Pippin” and “Chicago.”

An onstage post-performance Gala Party (additional tickets required) will immediately follow a talk-back opportunity with the company. It will include a champagne toast, dancing to a DJ, “delectables” by Ciao Catering and a silent auction.

The company, said Raphael, is taking great joy in the fact that “we’ve made it to middle age. That we are still dancing, still producing” ballets and “still engaging new audiences is amazing.” Raphael said a company mission is to make ballet accessible to new and younger audiences.

To that end, the company makes presentations continuously around the state, often in town libraries (that can attract a good mix of adults and children). But Raphael points out the company also does demonstration for such unconventional groups as the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a facility for wayward boys, in Middletown.

pasboros@ctpost.com; Twitter@PhyllisASBoros