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A Ballet for Spring
Julie Powell, The Athens Daily News
April 19, 2001

   Spring is in the air. The days are longer, and it seems a time for song and dance before the summer's heat weighs us down. In this spirit of celebration, the UGA Ballet Ensemble presents its Spring Gala 2001 featuring guest dancers Bobby Ball and Amy Fote of the Milwaukee Ballet, costuming by Canadian designer E. K. Ayotte, and the scenic design by Athens-based sculptor and painter Stan Mullins.

The centerpiece of the Gala is Artistic Director Joan Buttram's restaging of Act Two of the classical ballet ''Giselle,'' originally choreographed by Jean Corralli and Jules Perot in 1841.

   '''Giselle is considered to be the epitome of all the Romantic Ballets,'' explains Buttram. ''I have chosen to stage the Second Act this year and present the entire production next spring. This provides the dancers, myself and Stan (Mullins, the set designer) an opportunity to really deepen in the work -- staging it in two years instead of one -- and also allows me the opportunity to seek and find the appropriate funding for such a large project.''

   When ''Giselle'' was first performed, it set a new course for French ballet. Conceived by the influential French poet, author, critic and possibly the greatest champion of the Romantic ballet, Theophile Gautier, the ballet was inspired by a passage from Heinrich Heine's 1835 work, De l'Allemagne. Gautier wrote to Heine:

   ''My dear Henri Heine,

   While leafing through your beautiful book, De l'Allemagne, a few weeks ago, I came across a charming passage (one has merely to open the volume at random). It was the passage in which you speak of sprites in white gowns with hems that are perpetually damp, fairies whose little satin feet mark the ceiling of the nuptial chamber, the snow-white Wilis who waltz pitilessly the whole night long, and wondrous apparitions encountered in the Hartz mountains and on the banks of the Ilse, glimpsed in a mist bathed by German moonlight -- and I said out loud, 'What a pretty ballet one could make of that!'''


UGA Ballet Ensemble, Spring Gala 2001

Where: New Dance Theater located at the UGA Department of Dance building

When: 8 p.m. April 19-21; 2 p.m. April 22

Cost: $12 for adults and $8 for students, children and senior citizens

   Tickets are now available at the UGA Tate Student Center and will also be available at the door one hour prior to the performance if still available.

Call: (706) 542-4415 or (706) 542-8074.

Within the week, the ballet ''Giselle'' was finished, Adolphe Adam had composed the music, and the scenery was nearly completed. In this same spirit of collaboration, Buttram is working with Mullins to design the set.

   ''Joan asked me if I was interested in designing the backdrop, and I was excited to be considered for it,'' says Mullins. ''When I learned about the story of Giselle, I was doubly intrigued. The setting is a kind of occult world of jilted female lovers, the Wilis. They don't suck blood per se, but they are trying to damn other souls. Considering my interest in European culture, my career, and the paintings I'm working on for my upcoming show in New York, this project fit right into my current work. It's not a typical set design. Joan asked me to put my art vision on a set design rather than just provide a backdrop. She wanted a Stan Mullins painting.''

   Buttram's collaboration extends to the costumes as well. The program will be presented in originally designed costuming by E. K. Ayotte, who has provided costume direction to many major international ballet companies as well as theater and opera companies and feature films.

   ''The costumes are fabulous -- unique designs, wonderful materials and excellent construction provided by Ayotte,'' says Buttram. ''We premiered his set and costume design of 'La Bayadere' to overwhelming audience response last season. This season he has been able to design more freely in the modern and contemporary work we are presenting in the first half of the show. His costuming for 'Giselle' shows great sensitivity to detail and period, and provides us with a wonderful adaptation of this classic romantic ballet.''

   Other works to be presented in the program include ''Departure from Fifth,'' choreographed by Cynthia Pratt, ''Reflet de L'Image,'' choreographed by Tom Morris, ''Adjustable Wrench,'' choreographed by Andrew Kuhursky, and ''Six,'' choreographed by UGA Dance Department's Artist in Residence Molissa Fenley.

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Artifact from Molissa Fenley on Vimeo.

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