By Rebecca Ritzel
Excerpt of the article "Ballet, modern dance separated by blurred line"
Over the next two weekends, Washington audiences will have a chance to see programs that demonstrate just how fuzzy that line is. On Wednesday night at the Harman Center for the Arts, the Washington Ballet will present its “Jazz/Blues Project,” featuring works by Trey McIntyre and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, two relatively young choreographers known for flying back and forth, across continents, creating works for ballet and contemporary companies.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Belgian-Colombian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa grew up dancing at the Royal Ballet of Flanders but began her professional career with a jazz dance troupe. As a choreographer, she has become a global commodity. Her work was seen in Washington last month, when Ballet Hispanico performed “Sombrerísimo.” That was a light ensemble piece for the company’s men, but she also is known for her serious pointe pieces, including “A Streetcar Named Desire” for the Scottish Ballet. Later this year, she’ll become the first outside choreographer to receive a paid commission from the National Ballet of Cuba. Her new work for the Washington Ballet is called “Prism,” and it’s set to a piano score — which will be performed live — by Keith Jarrett.
“I am a contemporary choreographer who is in love with the aesthetic of the pointe show. I was not going to have this new Washington Ballet work be performed in toe shoes, but I changed my mind a week into rehearsals, because they look so beautiful on pointe.
“People dream away when dancers are on pointe shoes, because it’s so supernatural. It’s abstract. But contemporary dance reflects the society where we are today, more than a piece by Balanchine. It can be about themes, like loneliness. It’s much more raw, and the bodies of the dancers are more like us. Ballerinas are elegant. The audience is asking for that distinction: What I am paying for? That’s why [places such as the Kennedy Center] make a distinction between contemporary and ballet.
“In Europe, people like to be surprised more. The innovative thing is more fashionable here. I like the variety. That I am not put into a box. That’s a bit of a problem, because people don’t know what to expect. My tools are the dancers, and I adapt to what I see. I don’t want to label myself into one form of movement, to one energy. And I hope that’s how my career continues. I like being able to view ballet as just dancing in a very high-heeled pair of shoes.”