Performing arts is a team effort. From the idea, to the choreography, to the costumes and sets and lights: It takes an army to produce a show.
That’s what Lisa Avery and the group behind “Collaborations!” realized when conceptualizing the performing arts concert.
“Collaborations!” will be presented on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Mary Washington’s Dodd Auditorium. It is a partnership between Avery Ballet, Dodd Auditorium and a group of professional ballet dancers from the Virginia National Ballet.
Avery calls it an “educational opportunity exploring different aspects of the performing arts … an evening of artistic fusion of many artists, styles, dancers and musicians.”
The Avery Ballet dancers will share the stage with guest artists Annemieke Bruce, Luiz Gustavo Madubuike, Leandro Almeida and Michelle DeAngelis from the Virginia National Ballet.
Also featured in the show are vocalist Aaron Mickels and musicians Hiroko Furuie and Jason Collett.
The lineup doesn’t stop there. Dawn Brighton, a composer based in Scotland, will present her original score, “Awakenings,” commissioned for the event. The piece will involve artist Elena Kazmier painting live onstage, a women’s chorale made of singers from the Chamber Chorale of Fredericksburg and the University of Mary Washington, a complete string section of both student and professional musicians, and live piano.
There will, of course, also be dancing. Eight dancers from Avery Ballet will perform during the Kazmier piece, the opening dances set to Gershwin and other movements throughout the show.
The four professional dancers came to Avery Ballet every week for classes and became involved in original choreography Avery worked on with former student and Avery Ballet teacher Kori Terrell Joseph.
That choreography includes four original pieces with lyrical pointe work, acting and the emotion of relationships relayed through dance—all set to love songs from the 1950s.
“Whoever makes the decision to be here will walk away with such a positive experience,” she said. “It moves. There’s almost no time to catch your breath.”
She said working with the Virginia National Ballet dancers has been “such an amazing experience.”
They reached out to her about taking classes, which she said speaks to the reputation of the school.
“In its 23rd year, we have national and international alumni upholding our name,” she said.
But working with them has also been a positive experience for her dancers. One, who is homeschooled, is able to work with the professionals during the day while they are also working on techniques.
“But all of them, they see the energy that flows from the professional group and they see that great passion for art,” she said.
One of those dancers is 17-year-old Laura Scarbeck. Now a senior at Riverbend High School, she has been at Avery for three years. She’ll continue to focus on ballet in the fall at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
She said working with professional ballet dancers has been inspiring, since she also wants to make ballet a career.
This year has been tough, with school work and ballet commitments, but working with them “helped me understand how to handle myself and act with professionalism even when things aren’t going my way,” she said.
This performance will be part of her graduation from the ballet school. She said it’s a bittersweet parting, not wanting to leave but being excited about what comes next.
At a recent rehearsal, she demonstrated what she’s learned over these three years, moving in sync with another ballerina, engaging in difficult pointe work and hitting her spots onstage.
For Avery, working with her collaborators is like a highly choreographed dance. She has worked with Director of Dodd Auditorium Douglas Noble on productions since 2011. The proceeds from the performance will be issued to the Dodd Auditorium Foundation Fund.
She said, “It’s so special to work with someone who has the same ethics about art as you.”
Behind the scenes, Noble has been working on the lighting, stag setup and the myriad other tasks that go along with running the auditorium.
“We really work together as a group to create a final product,” he said. “You just can’t do performing arts by yourself.”