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Newport Contemporary Ballet presents new Frontier Series with ‘FIREBIRD’ world premiere

Newport Contemporary Ballet in 'FIREBIRD'. Photo by Eric Hovermale.
Newport Contemporary Ballet in 'FIREBIRD'. Photo by Eric Hovermale.

Newport Contemporary Ballet (NCB) (formerly known as Island Moving Company) has announced details for Catch Fire!, the Company’s new Frontier Series production. The series runs May 18-20, at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence. 

Catch Fire! is curated by NCB Artistic Director Danielle Genest and features two world premiere works. Working with fire as a central theme, the program includes an all-new FIREBIRD choreographed and staged by Genest, and a new work entitled ASHES by visiting guest choreographer Tristian Griffin.

“The company is excited to return to Providence and the WaterFire Arts Center this spring with our inaugural Frontier Series production, Catch Fire! True to its name, NCB’s Frontier Series engages our artists to push past familiar boundaries and explore new perspectives and approaches to dancemaking,” said NCB Executive Director Peter Bramante.

Genest added, “My idea for Catch Fire! started with FIREBIRD, which will be a unique blend of classical and contemporary ballet. I wanted to have a strong piece of contemporary dance on the program to create balance and, once again, highlight the broad spectrum of work that Newport Contemporary Ballet does. Tristian Griffin immediately came to mind. His choreography is full of power and originality, and I knew he would have a beautiful way of connecting to the theme.”

The Firebird is one of the world’s most well-known ballets and musical compositions, and a favorite ballet of Genest. Finding inspiration from the beloved tale, Genest set out to create a new interpretation of the classic ballet set to Stravinsky’s captivating score. The original score was written in 1910, and was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, founder of Ballets Russes, for the Paris Opera House and choreographed by Michel Fokine. The successful premiere of the Firebird in 1910 was the start of an 18-year collaborative partnership between Stravinsky and Diaghilev, resulting in other famous ballets, including Petrushka (1911), The Rite of Spring (1913) and Apollo (1928).

“This is a ballet that I loved performing and have always wanted to choreograph,” Genest said. “FIREBIRD explores themes of good, evil and magic at the intersection of the human and mythological worlds. I am intrigued by the concept, inspired by the music and excited to bring this folk tale forward in a fresh, dynamic way.”

Local artist/sculptor Shawndavid Berry is collaborating with Genest to provide scenic design and set pieces for FIREBIRD. Berry is a sculptor and painter working to express movement and evoke emotion through his mediums. He describes his process for creating set and scenic design elements for Genest’s FIREBIRD as “connecting matter from fluid, vapor to solid and metaphysical, hoping to provide a cohesive balance between dancers and scenery.”

NCB Resident Costume Designer Eileen Stoops will design the costumes.

Choreographer Tristian Griffin is excited to work with NCB again. “This will be my second work for the company. I am looking forward to collaborating with the dancers as well as pushing myself as a creator and choreographer.” Griffin goes on to describe his new dance, ASHES, as a work about the flame that resides in each and every person. Composer Michael Wall and Costume Designer Naomi Tanioka contributed to the vision of Griffin’s new work.

“I’ve been thinking how the life of the flame represents the evolution of the soul as it progresses during our lifetime,” Griffin explained. “A life starts off with a spark, similar to kindling a fire. And the last breath we draw is like a flame being blown out.”

A native of Kansas City, MO, Griffin danced with Garth Fagan Dance and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Over the past year, he taught full-time at the University of Kansas as a Visiting Professor of Practice. Currently, Griffin is in his second year as an Artist-in-Residence at Lawrence Arts Center

For more information, visit newportcontemporaryballet.org.

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