A Jazz Ballet With Bite

A hunt for the wolf in Swingin' 60s London "Peter & the Wolf Jump Cool" featuring the City Ballet of L.A.

Published on LatinoLA: April 22, 2009

A Jazz Ballet With Bite

A jazz ballet with a bite opens the Ford's summer season and Target Dance Series at the Ford!

City Ballet of Los Angeles and the Ford Amphitheatre present "Peter and the Wolf Jump Cool" on Saturday, June 6 at 8:30 pm. This swinging 60s sly adaptation of Prokofiev's score, made famous by legendary jazz organist Jimmy Smith, features twelve dancers of City Ballet and live narration by actress Sloan Robinson.

The prologue to "Peter and the Wolf" is City Ballet's "Concerto Project" which gives the company's young, accomplished dancers and choreographers the opportunity to present their work on the concert stage. A new work inspired by the 1940s follows three couples in a story of love, betrayal and passion. The Concerto Project introduces new choreographers: Heather Lipson Bell, Ellen Rosa and Donte Phillips.

The pre-show entertainment at 7:30pm in the Ford's waterfall courtyard will be Ralph Gibson's acclaimed Atman Ensemble performing straight ahead jazz to wine and dine to. Tickets are: $30 and $5 for full-time students with ID and children under 12, available at www.FordTheatres.org or 323 461-3673.

Through the Ford's early buyer incentive, adults who buy tickets on or before May 30 pay only $25. The $5 student/child tickets are made possible thanks to a grant from Target, sponsor of Target Dance Series at the Ford. Target strives to make the arts affordable and accessible to youth and families because the arts help foster an appreciation and understanding of various cultures and points of view.

Influenced by the likes of Pina Bausch, Matthew Bourne and George Balanchine, Artistic Director/Choreographer Robyn Gardenhire turns this classical ballet into a slick 1960s revue, transporting us to swinging 60s London on a hunt for the Wolf himself. This hip translation of the 1936 classical Russian ballet, set to the 1966 Verve label adaptation arranged by Oliver Nelson and featuring the nimble genius of Hammond organist "The Incredible Jimmy Smith," is choreographed by company Artistic Director Robyn Gardenhire. Gardenhire and her ensemble strive to present ballet in bold and engaging ways for eclectic Los Angeles audiences.

This psychedelic whirlwind presents a unique merging of precise, classical ballet and popular culture, where dancers in high heels and pointe shoes also skank and glide to 1960s London ska in this jazz improvisation of the original score. The dances run the gamut from ecstatic, fast-paced numbers and hard bop to tender lyrical ballads with a cool modern twist.

At sixteen, after training in Compton and Los Angeles with Irina Kovsmaska and Tatiana Lichine at Los Angeles Ballet, Robyn Gardenhire was offered a position with Joffrey Ballet II in New York City - one of the youngest African-Americans ever to be offered a contract with the Joffrey apprentice company. She went on to dance with the White Oak Project and American Ballet Theatre, Mark Morris, Karole Armitage and the Cleveland Ballet. With her wealth of experience as a dancer and these maverick choreographic influences, Robyn Gardenhire has carved out a mission for City Ballet of Los Angeles: to create cutting-edge classical ballet. http://www.cityballetofla.org

"I always wanted to be a cabaret star, never missing Eartha Kitt at the Carlyle Hotel each spring. Dancing for Karole Armitage (who experimented wildly with music and movement) inspired me to go beyond the prescribed boundaries of my medium. I want to create dance that appeals to persons of all races, so I bring all the elements of cool, sexy jazz to traditional ballet in this work. I love the purity of ballet, but wish to create a new audience and reinvigorate old audiences via the appeal of highly trained dancers set in motion to smokin' jazz. Because jazz is so improvisational, the dancers must constantly be on top of the riff. As ballet is usually so precise and jazz is much freer, this performance results in a surprising new show each time it's performed"- Robyn Gardenhire, Choreographer.

Robyn Gardenhire, Choreographer, Artistic Director & Founder of City Ballet of Los Angeles, a native Angeleno, began dancing at a small school in Compton California. She auditioned for the Los Angeles Ballet's Jr. Company and received a scholarship to study in the school where the doors to a professional career opened for her. She went on to receive scholarships to study at American Ballet Theater School, San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet. She had her first contract with Joffrey Ballet II and danced at City Center and Jacobs Pillow. She later joined Cleveland Ballet under the direction of Dennis Nahat and had original works developed for her as well as performing such principal roles as Choleric from Balanchine's "Four Temperaments," Arabian Princess from "Nutcracker," and Russian Girl in Balanchine's "Serenade." She then joined the company of avant-garde choreographer Karole Armitage and toured all of Europe. At the request of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ms. Gardenhire joined American Ballet Theater and then his White Oak Project working with choreographers Lar Lubovitch and Mark Morris. Gardenhire was the catalyst in establishing American Ballet Theater's diversity committee that introduced minority children to classical dance through their "build a ballet" program, and was instrumental in providing many scholarships given to minority students to study at the school. Teaching and choreographing throughout the United States and abroad, Gardenhire returned to Los Angeles and established the City Ballet of Los Angeles in 2000. This professional training school provides full scholarships to students that are economically and socially disadvantaged and boasts a company whose repertoire is a mixture of classical and contemporary dance. She is known for bringing the music of J.S. Bach and John Coltrane together in one ballet program, and presenting new stories via this classical art form that nurture, inspire and evoke a sense of community to the audience. The Company's debut was in 2003 at the Bing Theater at USC and they have since performed at the Henry Fonda Theater, Wilshire Ebell Theater, and the Biltmore Hotel's Crystal Ballroom. Gardenhire is a two time Durfee Foundation award winner and was recently nominated for an NAACP award for choreography.

Atman Ensemble: Mr. Ralph Gibson formed the Atman Ensemble in 1995 with some of the most talented jazz musicians in the Los Angeles area. They play straight ahead jazz, from the post-bebop era as well as jazz standards and original pieces inspired by John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Chick Korea, Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Freddy Hubbard, Tadd Dameron and others. The Atman Jazz Ensemble continues in the tradition of these jazz giants by expressing themselves through the creativity of improvisational jazz music. Mr. Gibson began his formal performance training with teachers William Green and later with Charles Owens. Mr. Gibson has been a part of the L.A. Jazz scene now for over 20 years and has played with Billy Higgins, Horace Tapscott, Azar Lawrence, James Love, The SOJ Quintet led by Robert Pope and many more. He founded the Atman Jazz Ensemble and is an integral part of the Leimert Park Jazz scene. Mr. Gibson has gigged at some of the most popular jazz venues in L.A., San Francisco, and N.Y. including: Lunaria, Caf?® Des Artistes, Catalina Bar and Grill, the World Stage, Spazios, La Juellene, The Saint Nicolas Pub and Smalls. Atman Jazz Ensemble Members include: Ralph Gibson, Tenor and Soprano Saxophone; Ron Sewer, Trumpet and Flugel Horn; Cengiz Yaltkaya, Piano; Mark Boykin, Bass; and Giovanni Nickens, Drums.

Ford Amphitheatre is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068 off the 101 Hollywood Freeway across from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios. The grounds open two hours before show time for picnicking. The Ford offers a number of dining options: a variety of food and beverages is available on site and box dinners for evening events may be ordered in advance. Patrons are welcome to bring their own food and drink. The Ford is disabled accessible. Portable wireless listening devices are available upon request.

PURCHASING TICKETS - Online: www.FordTheatres.org (starting April 2) Phone: 323 461-3673

PARKING - On-site, stacked parking: $5 per vehicle for evening shows, $1 per vehicle for morning family shows FREE, non-stacked parking & FREE shuttle to the Ford (evenings only): Universal City Metro Station lot at Lankershim Blvd. and Campo de Cahuenga. The Ford shuttle stops in the "kiss and ride" area and cycles every 15 to 20 minutes.

This event is part of the Ford Amphitheatre 2009 Season, a multi-disciplinary arts series produced by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission in cooperation with Los Angeles County-based arts organizations. For a complete season schedule, directions to the theater and parking information, log on to www.FordTheatres.org.

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