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BalletX rounds out season with ‘Castrati,’ plus two brand-new productions

Elections provide fodder for world premiere ballets.

Fresh off a three-piece spring series in April and May, BalletX returns July 12 with another trio of works – one, the crowd-pleasing “Castrati,” accompanied by two all-new world premieres.
Both of those newbies, seemingly by sheer coincidence, target the palpable anxiety felt in today’s wonky political climate.

“I have a few moments [in the ballet] that respond to how we all come together when it’s such a chaotic time in history,” says Jodie Gates, choreographer of “Beautiful Once,” one of the two premieres. “It affects everybody every day. And certainly, I talk with the dancers at length about how this piece can help us work through some anxiety we all have.”

The 23-minute piece will feature 10 dancers, choreographed to – and heavily influenced by — chamber music composed by Ryan Lott. Gates describes it as abstract storytelling neatly tied up for the audience by its end scene, meant to capture the feeling of chaos during this time in history. All the while, of course, offering some feelings of hope.

“Primarily, I really wanted to touch on a sense of humanity and what we are all doing at the moment – a sense of urgency in our society and community,” Gates says. “But also, the sense of humanity it takes for us to all feel part of an experience, and how I did that was really through the music. Ryan’s music is so poetic. People who’ve watched it say they feel something, and that comes from the dancers – the movement really seeps out of their pores.”

The second new piece, “Let mortal tongues awake,” is a 20-minute piece choreographed by BalletX co-founder Matthew Neenan. It’s similarly inspired by the “stir” of world elections, Neenan notes, and takes on themes of authority. It’s also, he adds, more driven by movement than music.

It is, to boot, created with The Prince Theater in mind — BalletX’s temporary home while the Wilma Theater undergoes renovations.

“The theater itself, the way it’s designed — I wanted to utilize the theater’s two little balconies,” says Neenan. “I’d love to have dancers up there.”

The inspiration came from the idea of imagining a king or queen standing over the crowd from the balconies. The production aims to play with that image.

“Castrati,” meanwhile, is a popular production that sports its own anxious feelings — only derived from the 16th through 18th-century practice of castrating prepubescent Spanish and Italian singers. The thought behind the practice: By castrating before puberty, the larynx does not undergo standard changes in males and breath capacity is significantly enhanced.

While that practice is no longer legal, "Castrati" explores the lives of these once-upon-a-time artists who maintained an unparalleled devotion to their craft with scars to show for it. The production, also landing around the 20-minute mark, is choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

Neenan explains that short-length pieces are not necessarily typical of summer dance productions – but then, neither are summer ballet productions at all.
“Most choreographers are off right now,” he reveals. “This is kind of their summer layoff period – it’s rare there’s a July program in any ballet company unless it’s a summer festival, or a tour. But what’s nice about the summer series is it sells out quickly because there’s not much competition going on. We usually warn people to get their tickets immediately.”

BalletX finishes its 2016-17 season with the summer series. It runs July 12-16 at The Prince Theater; tickets range from $27-$52.