BalletMet’s ‘Swan Lake’ finds strength in numbers

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Photo courtesy Balletmet Columbus/Will Shively
BalletMet Columbus dancers Andres Estevez and Bethany Lee are featured in the company’s co-production of Swan Lake with Cincinnati Ballet.

More swans – 24 to be exact.

That’s a dramatic oversimplification of the motivation behind the collaborative presentation of the classic ballet Swan Lake by Cincinnati Ballet and BalletMet Columbus. But the number was mentioned by both Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director/CEO Victoria Morgan and BalletMet Executive Director Cheri Mitchell.

That a production of Swan Lake benefits from the grandness of scale afforded by a combination of forces was the prime motivation for the companies’ initial co-production of Swan Lake in 2009.

“We were looking at ways to do works that each company could do but not in the same way as they could together,” Mitchell told The Beat.

“You can arrive at new artistic approaches.”

“To have the magnitude was energizing, so stimulating both internally for the companies and for audiences,” Morgan added.

The two organizations began working together more than a decade ago, Morgan working with then-BalletMet Artistic Director David Nixon. The concept then was as simple as adding a production of each others’ companies to the season schedule – a “production exchange” in Mitchell’s words. The partnership developed during immediate past Artistic Director Gerard Charles’ leadership at BalletMet. He and Morgan coordinated blended programs with segments presented by alternating groups of dancers until the production of Swan Lake, which marked the first time dancers from both companies shared the stage at the same time.

The cities are close enough to facilitate such a collaboration, but far enough apart that there is little overlap between the audiences, Mitchell explained.

As in 2009, the production will be staged in Columbus and Cincinnati on consecutive weekends, with dancers from the “host” company dancing lead roles. Beyond there being some new dancers in each of the companies, there will be some other small changes and refinements for the 2013 staging.

“(This time around) it’s much calmer. We have a formula that has worked before,” Morgan explained.

Morgan discussed some of the more-practical benefits and efficiencies of a combined program, including the sharing of sets and costumes.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of unity. The esprit de corps among these ballet dancers is miraculous,” Morgan said.

“The exciting part is having the staffs and dancers working together,” Mitchell added.

Mitchell called artistic collaboration “enriching for the community,” adding that BalletMet has done extensive work with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and Shadowbox Live, and has a program scheduled for later this season with the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus. That’s not to mention an additional program with Cincinnati Ballet – the companies will co-produce George Balanchine’s Symphony in C in March.

Morgan said she and new BalletMet Artistic Director Edwaard Liang already have begun discussing possible future collaborations.