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St. Louis Ballet's Contemporary Series mixes things up

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Christopher d'Amboise has been to St. Louis a few times now to collaborate with the St. Louis Ballet, each time working with the dancers here on pieces he's already composed.

"In the process of that, I got to really know the dancers," he says, learning how quirky and interesting each one was.

"They all had really distinct personalities, so this piece I created and imagined for these dancers to really bring out their volatile 'esters'," he says. (Check out the videos here of d'Amboise creating and imagining this new work.)

"Esters" is part of the name of the original work d'Amboise created, which will be among several featured at the St. Louis Ballet's Contemporary Series May 10 and 11 at the Touhill Center on the UMSL campus. "Volatizing the Esters"comes from d'Amboise's wife's wine blog. The term itself, d'Amboise says, comes from what happens wine is swirled in a glass, adding oxygen and bringing out the complex notes.

"That's a great metaphor for this piece."

d'Amboise, who is a former principal of the New York City Ballet and former artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet, set his new work to the music of Beethoven. The dance itself is very contemporary, he says.

"It's almost like a series of short stories."

Some are funny, some sexy, some powerful and extreme.

Also featured at the Contemporary Series is a new piece by Gen Horiuchi, St. Louis Ballet's artistic director, and also a former principal of the New York City Ballet. Horiuchi's piece includes new music by French jazz composer Claude Bolling.

The performance also features a comedic duet set to the William Tell Overture choreographed by Dance St. Louis' artistic director and executive director Michael Uthoff, as well as the return of Horiuchi's "More Morra," which was first performed in 2009 and includes original music by resident composer Joe Morra.

“We are excited about bringing these distinguished, celebrated choreographers to Saint Louis Ballet,” Horiuchi says in a press release. “This performance is special because each choreographer adds a unique perspective based on their significant careers in ballet that will challenge our dancers and audience in an intriguing way.”

Expect some drama from the series, too. Like the way the dancers get mixed up, d’Amboise adds some Broadway flair to “Volatizing the Esters.”

“This is kind of a hybrid,” he says. “It's definitely a ballet, but it’s highly theatrical.”

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