Here they come! A new royal partnership is being forged: Michele Wiles, one of ballet’s most celebrated Swan Queens, and Jay Donn, the reigning king of Punchlines, a form of Brooklyn-based flex dancing. The result is “Something Sampled,” one of three world premieres on the boards for BalletNext’s season, “Baroque’d,” at New York Live Arts, February 10-14.
Under the artistic direction of former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles who founded the adventurous ballet troupe four years ago, the rich and varied season will also feature “Ushuaia,” marking Wiles’s formal choreographic debut and “Outswirl,” a new ballet by Peter Quanz. The music for the three ballets, each set to Baroque music, or riffs on it, will all be played live.
What could the 400 year old conventions of ballet, which originated in the French court, possibly have in common with the art of Flex dancing, which was born in Jamaica and then transported to the streets of Brooklyn 10 years ago? “Something Sampled” answers the question by uniting the forms, melding their unique virtuosic demands so that the physical, emotional and spiritual connections become apparent. The compelling narrative is told through the traditional pantomime associated with both ballet and Flex’s Punchline storytelling. Performed by Wiles, who is well-known for her winsome beauty and balletic purity, and the rivetingly imaginative Donn, whose flashing charm, talent and originality made him one of the stars of the 2013 film “Flex is Kings,” “Something Sampled” also includes five dancers from BalletNext, who learned to stretch their imaginations as well as their bodies in order to perform the new work. The three-part ballet is a collaboration between Wiles, Donn and electro-acoustic cellist composer Chris Lancaster, who created the ballet’s original score.
Peter Quanz’s “Outswirl,” marks a dramatic departure for the 35-year old choreographer whose ballets fill the repertories of the Mariinsky Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet of Cuba, the National Ballet of Canada, and the Royal Ballet, among others. Like the other two works on the program, “Outswirl” was created during BalletNext’s residence at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, where the artists were given the time and space to experiment. For Quanz, the time allowed him the chance to get to know the dancers individually, their unique personalities and singular technical skills. The experience inspired him to take new liberties with the classical ballet vocabulary and structure. Abandoning strict adherence to a musical score and the architecture of the balletic tradition, “Outswirl” radiates a new-found spontaneity, crafted to appear as if the dancers are creating the ballet at the moment. The music is Arcangelo Corelli.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Michele Wiles founded BalletNext in 2011 in an effort to pair classically trained dancers and live musicians in a collaborative setting that encourages risk-taking with a focus on process.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, at age 10 she moved to Washington D.C. to train at the Kirov Academy on full scholarship. She was a Gold Medal winner at the 18th International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria; a Bronze Medal winner in Nagoya, Japan and a finalist at the Paris International Dance Competition. She was a Princess Grace Foundation – U.S.A. Dance Fellowship recipient for 1999–2000 and won the Erik Bruhn Prize in 2002.
She joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in 1997 and joined American Ballet Theatre in 1998, where she was promoted to soloist in 2000 and to principal in 2005. She left ABT in 2011 to found BalletNext, where she remains artistic director as well as a dancer. “Ushuaia,” to music by Heinrich Biber, which she created this year, marks her formal choreographic debut.
Jay Donn, a highly energetic, daredevil Brooklyn-born dancer, is a founder of the Brooklyn dance style known as Flexing and creator of the sub-style, “Punchlines.” At age 15, he started his dance career on BCAT’s TV show, “Flex N Brooklyn” and saw a boost in his career when his group, Ringmasters, appeared on the third season of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” He has been seen in many music videos alongside Elephant Man, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO’s Sky Blu, among others, and been in the feature-films “Step Up 3D” and “Flex is Kings.” He toured worldwide with Sky Blue’s Big Bad University and Company XIV’s ballet, “Pinocchio.” He regularly performs with electro-acoustic cellist composer, Chris Lancaster.
Peter Quanz, a graduate of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, danced professionally with the Stuttgart Ballet before turning to choreography full-time in 2002. Mr. Quanz has created over 40 commissioned works for ballet companies around the world including American Ballet Theatre, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Hong Kong Ballet, the Mariinsky Theatre (Russia), the National Ballet of Canada, the National Ballet of Cuba, The Royal Ballet, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, as well as eight works for his own company, Q Dance. A company as well as a “ choreographic laboratory,” Q Dance has performed in major venues in the United States and in Canada including the Joyce Theater in New York City. In 2011, the Buryatian National Ballet performed a trio of Mr. Quanz’s works at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, which resulted in Mr. Quanz being awarded a State Medal in Literature and the Arts from the Republic of Buryatia, Russia.
Chris Lancaster is an electro-acoustic cellist composer living in Brooklyn, New York. He trained as a classical cellist, but endeavors to expand the ideas of what a cello can be, and what sounds it can create. His solo compositions are performed live using a wide array of effects, samplers and speaker sculptures to create encompassing, cinematic and otherworldly sounds.