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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 2, 1997)
No m0r6 identical ballerinas en
pointe in “Swan Lake.” The James
Sewell Ballet would rather dance in
straight jackets than romantic tutus.
“We want to shatter people’s Stereo
types,” choreographer James Sewell
said. “People think of tutus and pink
and stuffy ladies in fur when they think
of ballet but ballet is a progressive
art form moving into the 20th century.
People need to realize it’s not just a
piece of history.”
Sewell is in Lincoln this week with
his company, the James Sewell Ballet,
to expose audiences to ballet’s broader
scope and magnitude.
Wednesday, he taught a master
class at the Johnny Carson Theater that
was indicative of his approach to dance.
Sewell began the class like most
ballet classes - with a phe combination
to stretch and warm up the body.
But he didn’t just offer the normal
two demi plies, a grande and a releve
ballet exercise; he coupled the steps
with the modem dance techniques of
fall and release.
Sewell will further showcase the
marriage between classical ballet and
modem dance with an eclectic concert
Learning to fly, HIGH!
According to the company’s execu
tive director, Gary Peterson, Sewell’s
own career serves as a model of ballet’s
breadth. Having studied under George
Balanchine and danced with the Feld
Ballets/NY, Sewell learned from some
of the pioneers in 20th century ballet,
Sewell began his performance
training at a children’s theater in New
York. Originally, he wanted to perform
magic, but as Sewell took more move
ment-oriented classes, he decided to
become a dancer.
From 1981 to 1982, Sewell studied
under Balanchine, the co-founder of the
New York City Ballet. Balanchine often
is considered the father of American
ballet and one of the most important
choreographers of the 20th century.
Sewell said working under a mod
em icon like Balanchine affected his
approach to the choreographic process.
“A lot of choreographers are depict
ed as being kind of crazy,” Sewell said
“Balanchine was very much the oppo
site. He was calm and quiet. There
could be chaos going around him, hut
all he would have to do was. dap his
hands. I found tins whs a much better
way to operate.”
In 1984, Sewell joined the Feld
Ballets/NY. The company’s founder,
Eliot Feld, has been called the “bad boy
of ballet” by the Washington Post, and
his choreography is distinguished by its
innovative movement stemming from a
classical ballet foundatioa
During this time, Sewell was
exposed to more modem dance, and his
experiences laid the foundation for his
work with his own company.
Feeling it come together
Sewell founded the James Sewell
Ballet in 1990 because he wanted to
devote himself to his choreography. As
a full-time dancer with the F&d Ballet,
Sewell lacked the time and energy tor
his own work, he said.
Sewell spent the next three years
presenting concerts of his work with.
-----; . W
dancers hired specifically for each one.L
In 1993, he decided to move the
company to Minneapolis for a number
“In New York City, there are over
400 dance companies,” Sewell
explained. “This limits fund-raising
Please see SEWELL on 14 \
. . , ) :
JAMES SEWELL, choreographer for James Sewell Ballet, teaches a master dancing class Tuesday afternoon at
Johnny Carson Theater. Sewell, with the five other dancers in his company, adds modern flair to the dance art
~ Sandy Summers/DN
SALLY ROUSSE and Jesse Hammel perform a scene from “Swan Lake”
Wednesday morning tor visiting elementary students. Ronsse and Hammel
am members of James Sewell Ballet, whlch wtll perform tonight at the Lied
Magic mixes with moves
H « .. ... . - . ~ ' _= , , s. J' • •
■ George Balanchine
draws from background to
bring performance to life.
. By Liza Holtmeier
The work of ballet icon George
Balanchine will share the stage
with magic tricks when the James
Sewell Ballet performs tonight at 8
at the Lied Center for Performing
The incongruous program
includes six pieces of contempo
rary ballet choreography per
formed to music ranging from rag
time artist Scott Joplin to classical
composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
Employing Chinese linking
rings and drawing from Sewell’s
background as a magician,
“Rings” will begin the program
choreographed to music by Joplin.
Following “Rings” will be
“Jacket,” also choreographed by
Sewell and set to music by Joplin.
This classical male variation
explores escaping from a straight
Next, the company will present
a new work by Sewell, called
“Good Mourning.” Divided into
four sections, its theme is past and
imminent lost. The first section, a
duet danced to “As Time Goes By,”
features a woman remembering the
loss of her husband after 25 years.
The second section features the
same woman dancing to a choral
prelude by Bach. The ballet’s six
dancers also will perform to Bach
an adagio vigil pealing with more
immediate loss. It shows them
reminiscing at a funeral.
The last section features two
couples dancing to “Agnusdei,”
from Samuel Barber’s Adagio for
Strings. It focuses on euthanasia
and caring for a dying spouse.
Please see BALLET on 14
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