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You Down with ABT? 

From New York, to California, to Beijing. But first, to Dutchess County. Bard College, to be exact. The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) returns to the Hudson Valley this October for a weekend of both dance revivals and premieres exclusively choreographed for the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater. Created 70 years ago by co-directors Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith, ABT became America’s National Ballet Company by an act of Congress in 2006. Currently directed by Kevin McKenzie, ABT has performed in 42 countries and features both classic and modern works.

The three premieres, choreographed by Aszure Barton, Benjamin Millepied, and ABT artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky, have a modern feel, according to McKenzie, but each choreographer’s distinct style reflects divergent dance personalities. From the lighthearted, more neoclassical Barton piece to the contemporary work by Millepied, the premieres present “an opportunity for the audience to gauge where art form can go,” says McKenzie, explaining how these performances are meant to stretch limits and explore all that ballet can offer.

What is it about Bard College that has drawn ABT back to the Hudson Valley with  such a highly anticipated agenda? McKenzie cites the interest in Bard as being twofold: the Hudson Valley location, which draws both dance aficionados and novices, as well as the concert hall setting, which challenges choreographers and encourages creativity for ballet performance. “Audiences find the name ABT inviting,” says McKenzie, “and art needs to try different things to move forward.” It’s the combination of ABT’s accessibility and their pushing of boundaries that allows them to appeal to different audiences.

Bard presents a unique theater experience for dancers and audiences alike, where the stage permits a more behind-the-scenes performance. At the same time, choreographers must create new work that accommodates the concert hall setting. Stages for ballet performance usually have eight doors for entrances and exits, but the Sosnoff Theater has only two, forcing the dances to make use of the atypical stage design. As a result, the “informal” theater experience forms a connection between audience and performers that can only be created in this setting.
As for ABT’s coming to Bard again after their October 2009 performance, McKenzie emphasizes, “We hope this is the beginning of a long-standing annual relationship.” ABT approaches their weekend at Bard with high expectations, and their performances will exhibit the originality ABT has come to be known for.

The American Ballet Theatre will perform in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater at Bard College on October 2 at 8pm; October 3 at 2pm and 8pm, with a pre-performance talk at 7pm; and October 4 at 3pm. (845) 758-7900;

click to enlarge The American Ballet Theatre performing Benjamin Millepied's From Here on Out, which will premiere at Bard College this month.
  • The American Ballet Theatre performing Benjamin Millepied's From Here on Out, which will premiere at Bard College this month.

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