Ballet has been a beloved art form since its origin in the fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance courts, but its popularity in the United States didn’t come to fruition until George Balanchine, a Russian native who trained in the Ballets Russes, founded the New York City Ballet in 1948.
The Boca Ballet Theatre will honor Balanchine and other ballet masters with “Summer Spectacular: Works of American Masters,” taking place on August 1 and 2 at Florida Atlantic University’s Dorothy F. Schmidt University Theater. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children and students.
“Summer Spectacular” is the final production of Boca Ballet’s twenty-fourth season and will include such works as Balanchine’s classic Serenade and Lew Christensen’s comedic Con Amore.
|Boca Ballet Theatre’s Serenade. Photo by Keith May
“[Serenade] is the absolute, ultimate [work] of pattern, balance, and musicality. George Balanchine was a master of pattern, and you don’t even see it coming,” says Dan Guin, Boca Ballet’s executive director and co-artistic director. Guin has been with the company since Lee Darwin founded it in 1991, and he and his wife and co-artistic director, Jane Tyree, are the power couple of Boca Ballet. Together they’re overseeing every aspect of the showcase, from choosing the pieces to setting the scene with lighting and set designs.
Guin took his talents a step further and even choreographed a piece that will be featured in “Summer Spectacular.” Entitled Just Swingin’, this toe-tapping number is a tribute to swing dancing and the World War II era. “It’s very Americanized; we have a very large flag in the back,” Guin says with a chuckle.
Adding to the variety of the show, Guin and Tyree chose Con Amore, a comedic spoof on opera and ballet by Lew Christensen, the longtime director of the San Francisco Ballet and a protégé and colleague of Balanchine. The piece keeps audiences laughing in a “who falls in love with whom” story Guin describes as a well-crafted classic worth seeing.
|Boca Ballet Theatre’s Con Amore. Photo by Keith May
The show will also include a new number called Long Train Running Opus #2 by Christopher Fleming, the founder of BalletFleming in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “We needed something cutting edge from a little different point of view because A) we are trying to have a performance that is well-rounded, and B) have dancers who are exposed to different types of material,” Guin says.
All of these pieces express the beauty of the female dancer. “They show off ladies’ lines; they show off their backs a lot. At one point they let their hair down,” Guin says.
While Boca Ballet currently teaches dancers who range in age from 3 to 92 years old, the show will include 32 students between the ages of 13 and 24.
In addition to the Boca Ballet students, six guest professional dancers will participate in “Summer Spectacular,” thus providing the aspiring youth the opportunity to train with successful, world-class dancers. The guest performers include: Alexey Kupin, a native of Ukraine and current freelance artist based in Santa Barbara, California; Shannon Smith, a Florida native who has worked with companies such as Cincinnati Ballet and Sarasota Ballet of Florida and is currently an instructor at St. Andrew’s School; Mauricio Cañete, a native of Santiago, Chile and a former Houston Ballet soloist; and Sanjay Saverimuttu, a Boca Raton native, graduate of Boca Ballet Theatre, and dancer at Louisville Ballet.
“What’s great about [Boca Ballet Theatre] is it has its students work alongside professional dancers [who] are in the industry, which is a great way to learn and also to be motivated to obtain a certain level of professionalism,” Saverimuttu says. The Boca Ballet Theatre graduate will be reprising his former roles in Just Swingin’ and Con Amore, but will be dancing Serenade for the first time.
Saverimuttu hopes to inspire and encourage the current students at Boca Ballet. “There are so many more places you can take your artistry beyond the confines of the school once you’ve grown up. And there are so many ways to stay connected in the dance world.”
Saverimuttu had many experiences training and performing with established dancers during his time at Boca Ballet, which he joined when he was 7 years old. One stood out from the rest: José Manuel Carreño. Saverimuttu said Carreño made such an impact on him because of his strong stage presence, as well as his giving personality. “It just gives you that little bit of inspiration to just keep going and keep pushing through whatever troubles you’re having personally as a dancer,” Saverimuttu says.
This hard work and dedication will be on full display in “Summer Spectacular: Works of American Masters,” resulting in a balance of love-struck comedy and beautifully crafted technique. “There’s something for everybody in this show,” Saverimuttu says.