Ballet Fantastique wants to take you on a trip — somewhere fun, warm and sunny.
In its coming show, “ARRIVALS: RIO," the dance company plans to lift audiences from the gray Pacific Northwest winter and drop them in to scenes of beaches, forests and nightclubs in mid-century Brazil and Argentina.
“The project started with inspiration from some of our artists from Latin America,” Executive Director Hannah Bontrager said. “As the world shut down around us and now as this pandemic continues, I feel the project has taken on new meaning. ... A total escape is what we're hoping to share with people.”
The show is set for New Year’s Eve as well as a Jan. 2 matinee at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. Ticket prices range from $12 to $75; a live stream will be available for $25.
The show has been planned and canceled three times so far as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. Now the piece has been reimagined, rearranged and is ready to finally see the light of the stage.
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"It's a project that we've been working to bring to life here for several years now," Bontrager said. "It feels pretty exciting and surreal to finally be getting ready to see it come together.”
In addition to showcasing the company’s dancers and the choreography magic of the mother-daughter duo behind Ballet Fantastique, Donna and Hannah Bontrager, the show pays tribute to Brazilian choreographer Valéria da Costa Ball by featuring two of her works. Ball first collaborated with the company in 2005 and was celebrated for her creativity and passion; she died in 2016.
Multi-artist, multimedia collaboration
In the show, dancers take on Latin dances en pointe, don large ornate feathery headpieces and twirl through iconic South American destinations, sometimes accompanied by live music from local Bossanaire and Argentinian Ronroco player Juan Luqui.
Throughout the original piece, projected images set the mood or show aerial footage as the theater transforms into a plane that flies those inside from location to location. Artists and videographers worldwide contributed to the footage.
Principal dancer Gustavo Ramirez Rojas led the design of the projection. He said his goal was to connect the video backdrop with the numbers to make a "full story." Hailing from Cali, Colombia, Rojas also hopes the show's various stops leave audiences with a curiosity about Latin America.
"There is a lot of rich culture in South America," Rojas said. "It's more than what you see in headlines."
There's more to Argentina than soccer, he said, describing Tango on the streets and the way people "breath so much heart."
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"This is much more than a ballet show," Rojas said.
After dancers leap and pirouette through a few fabulous destinations, a more intimate number begins with dancers taking turns on top of small platforms with painted walls attached. The set pieces break a large stage into little pieces, creating the illusion of looking into three different rooms with ballerinas occupying the corner created by the conjoined walls.
These pieces are painted by Brazilian visual artist Milla Oliveira, the company's guest scenic painter. Whether it’s in a forest or a city street full of music and dance, Oliveira finds her home country exudes lushness and vibrancy. During her 12 years in the Pacific Northwest, she’s connected to a different kind of rainforest and found a different kind of lushness.
"It's been a super pleasure to make something that evokes the sense of rhythm that still lives in me. When I paint, I paint very much based in tempo and rhythm,” Oliveira said. “I've wanted to formally connect my paintings with movements for a while, and I'm really happy that this is happening now.”
With bright pinks and yellows, Oliveira created abstract florals that flow and drip down the wall. Dancers interact with the work, sometimes sliding down the painted walls, seemingly similarly flowing and dripping.
In times like this, art is especially urgent, Oliveira said.
"There's still a lot of tension between mask-wearing and thinking about how close we can get to one another," she said. "But things like music, arts and color can really fill the space and make us actually be closer together, be in conversation without necessarily needing the physical touch."
Artists involved are hoping audiences are left with an expanded understanding of, and appreciation for, Latin American as well as a sense of the necessity of creative expression — for those who do it and especially those who witness it.
“The things that we are watching that is happening outside, actually influences our inside, influences our composition," Oliveira said. "It's not just something that is added on top of your life, it's actually something that is making your life — shaping our perception of the world,"
Artists do a vitally important job, Donna Bontrager said, especially in times like this.
"People need art for their soul, their inner person," Bontrager said. "Art is necessary. It's not a luxury. It's not just for fun. I believe it's necessary for human beings to have art to be healthy and whole."
Ballet's Fantastique 'ARRIVALS: RIO'
What: Ballet Fantastique's latest creation takes you on a trip through the culture and music of mid-century Rio de Janeiro.
When: New Year's Eve show: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31 (pre-show begins at 8 p.m.), with an after-party (separate ticket required) beginning at 10:30 p.m.; matinee show: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2
Where: 1 Eugene Center, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts
Price: $12 to $75; the New Year's Eve after-party event ticket costs $35; livestream costs $25
More information: balletfantastique.org/arrivals
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at Tatiana@registerguard.com or 541-521-7512, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Take a trip with Ballet Fantastique's 'ARRIVALS: RIO' on New Year's Eve