The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony
Print Issues
Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony
Print Issues

Utah Ballet Brings Balanchine’s ‘Serenade’ to Stage

The School of Dance is bringing “Serenade” along with three new contemporary ballet works to the stage from Feb. 22 through March 2 on the Utah Ballet program.
The+School+of+Dance+Utah+Ballet+rehearses+Serenade+on+Jan.+27%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Haley+Freeman+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Haley Freeman
The School of Dance Utah Ballet rehearses “Serenade” on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

You will always remember the first time you saw “Serenade” performed live. 

When I watched the School of Dance ballet program rehearse “Serenade” in the expansive basement studios of the Marriott Center for Dance, I was transported back to a warm summer night at the Vail Dance Festival in Colorado. As Tchaikovsky’s score echoed across the amphitheater, a cool breeze swept from the tulle of the dancer’s skirts to the skin of my cheek.

A Curtain of Blue

“Serenade” is a plotless ballet choreographed by George Balanchine that began as a lesson in stage technique, with the School of American Ballet’s first performance in 1934. Soon after, Balanchine went on to form the New York City Ballet, using “Serenade” as a lesson to teach his dancers stage presence and performance qualities. The sweeping string score by Tchaikovsky paired with the light blue costumes creates a beautiful ballet exemplifying the connection between dancers on stage and the world around them.

The School of Dance has the unique opportunity this semester to perform classical ballets or choreographed new works. Gaining the right to perform a piece part of a world repertoire like “Serenade” is a significant opportunity for the University of Utah ballet program, dancers, faculty and audience. Typically performed by professional companies at the collegiate level, learning the history, movement and performance qualities of a Balanchine ballet is like no other. 

The School of Dance Utah Ballet rehearses “Serenade” on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Making the Ballet Come To Life

Seated in my chair tucked in the corner of the studio, two things immediately captured my attention: the dancers’ warm kindness to me, an outsider in their rehearsals, and the seriousness and dedication the dancers held for the ballet. Within minutes of rehearsals, the dancers were zoned in and focused on making great ballet. 

The process of getting “Serenade” to the stage has paid off. In the past, the School of Dance has presented great dancers in the ballet department, but unlike their modern program counterpart, they have not offered ample material to let the dancers’ talents shine. “Serenade” does just that, allowing the dancers to complete difficult movements, perform, bend, jump and swoosh across the stage — something that audiences have not seen much of recently. 

Beginning with auditions in November, Michele Gifford, a Balanchine répétiteur visited the University to stage the ballet on one of two casts over the course of two weekends. Since then, Margaret Tesch and Melissa Bobick, professors from the School of Dance, and grad student TA Carly Herrmann have been cleaning the dance and making sure both casts were ready to take the piece to stage.

The School of Dance Utah Ballet rehearses “Serenade” on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Teaching Hard Work can Lead to Beautiful Things

Tesch said a big focus of hers is on “cleaning and clarifying the choreography and style” as well as working on “stamina and keeping the technique clean even when [dancers are] breathless.” 

Mentioning that “Serenade” is an exciting piece for the School of Dance to perform, Tesch responded with enthusiasm that the growth the students are experiencing is exponential. Just as Balanchine’s students learned the piece to progress into adult careers, she said “The students are learning an iconic work, they are living history, embodying it.”

As the shows near, stamina and running the ballet many times is the goal. Tesch said it’s important for the students to see “they can do hard things, beautiful things.” Like Tesch, I hope a large audience will see the beautiful ballet on stage.

Tesch said she hopes “it’s a huge hit and that [the School of Dance] can continue to bring iconic works … [to] honor our history. We must investigate the past, look at it through current lenses and move it forward on dancers who believe that this art form is accessible for everyone.”

The School of Dance Utah Ballet rehearses “Serenade” on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

A Department Affair

Even this close to performance, last-minute touches are being made by the stage technicians and costume shop. Em Bertelli, production director, is setting up lighting specs that were sent from the Balanchine Trust to reproduce as specified. Christopher Larson and his costume shop team have, according to Tesch, “outdone themselves.”

The School of Dance is bringing “Serenade,” along with three new contemporary ballet works, to the stage from Feb. 22 through March 2 on the Utah Ballet program.

Though only “Serenade” is highlighted here, “In the Theater of Air,” choreographed by Christine McMillan, “Elemental Alignment,” choreographed by Ashley Jian Thomson and “Bring it on Home,” choreographed to Led Zeppelin music by Luc Vanier, complete what will be one of the School of Dance’s best programs in recent times.

Find some time, go to see the ballet! Students can see the show for free with a valid U Card. For more performance and ticketing information, go here

 

[email protected]

@haleyfreee

The School of Dance Utah Ballet rehearses “Serenade” on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Haley Freeman, Arts Writer
Haley Freeman is a sophomore mechanical engineering major at the University of Utah. She was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, and now is based out of South Carolina, when not traveling or at the U. She enjoys all things ballet, film, photography, and literature. When not writing for the paper, you can catch Haley working sage tech at the Marriott Center for Dance, spending time with her Alpha Chi Omegas, or frolicking in the snow.

Comments (0)

The Daily Utah Chronicle welcomes comments from our community. However, the Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to accept or deny user comments. A comment may be denied or removed if any of its content meets one or more of the following criteria: obscenity, profanity, racism, sexism, or hateful content; threats or encouragement of violent or illegal behavior; excessively long, off-topic or repetitive content; the use of threatening language or personal attacks against Chronicle members; posts violating copyright or trademark law; and advertisement or promotion of products, services, entities or individuals. Users who habitually post comments that must be removed may be blocked from commenting. In the case of duplicate or near-identical comments by the same user, only the first submission will be accepted. This includes comments posted across multiple articles. You can read more about our comment policy at https://dailyutahchronicle.com/comment-faqs/.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *