Next year, the Kansas City Ballet will complete its trifecta of the great ballets by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky with “The Sleeping Beauty.”
Also on its recently announced 2016-17 season are a new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a spring program that includes three works new to the company: “Interplay,” “The Lottery” and “Theme and Variations.”
Of course, the company’s sparkly new “Nutcracker” will make a return engagement.
Since taking charge of the ballet in 2013, artistic director Devon Carney has devoted himself to increasing the company’s number of dancers and refining its technique to properly present the majestic ballets of the 19th century. For example, opening Friday is “Swan Lake,” a central work in the ballet canon never before mounted by the Kansas City Ballet.
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Carney considers “Swan Lake” an ideal preparatory work for next year’s “The Sleeping Beauty.”
“I am going through ‘Swan Lake’ to get to ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because, believe it or not, it’s not as complicated as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in terms of the number of different moments and scenes,” Carney said. “In ‘Sleeping Beauty’ there’s the Lilac Fairy, attendants, Princess Aurora and her friends. You’ve got Puss ’n Boots, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and you’ve got Bluebird. It’s a bit like Act 2 of ‘Nutcracker,’ with all of these divertissements. But it’s just a lot more.”
Carney is no stranger to “The Sleeping Beauty,” having staged an acclaimed production for the Cincinnati Ballet. He’ll bring his deep knowledge of the work to the Kansas City Ballet for what he hopes will be an authentic, classical interpretation.
Carney is also intimately familiar with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” making its Kansas City Ballet debut next season.
“It was choreographed on me in 1985 by Bruce Wells, when he was resident choreographer with Boston Ballet,” Carney said. “I did the lead, Oberon, although Puck is the happiest person in the entire show and steals a lot of scenes with his antics. It was very successful for Boston Ballet, and they played it over and over again.
“And it’s been done by other ballet companies like Milwaukee Ballet, Orlando Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet. It has a good track record of being a crowd-pleaser.”
The Shakespearean ballet will be danced to Felix Mendelssohn’s music. The dancers will wear “whimsical costumes,” Carney said, and the setting will be “a wood glade out in the middle of a forest where you would see nymphs and fairies flitting about and landing on leaves, dew hanging from their fingertips.”
Another aspect of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” particularly delights Carney.
“There are kids in this production, lots of children,” he said. “They’re all little woodland fairies that giggle when Puck comes in. They’re very much the child-like heart of the ballet. I love that they’re in it, and that’s another reason I wanted to bring that production here because it involves kids in a way that’s appropriate and adds an element to the telling of the story.”
Carney’s production of “The Nutcracker” will return in December, and next February the ballet will present its annual New Moves program, which showcases some of the best new choreography. That will be in the Michael and Ginger Frost Theater in the Bolender Center.
Concluding the season is a spring program featuring three other works that have never been performed by the Kansas City Ballet: Jerome Robbins’ “Interplay,” Val Caniparoli’s “The Lottery” and George Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations.”
“ ‘Interplay’ is just jazzy and fun,” Carney said. “It’s a great opener.
“ ‘The Lottery’ is a really intense story about a community that has a lottery to decide on one person to be sacrificed for the community to continue thriving over the course of the next year. What’s really unique about this particular production is that nobody, including the dancers, knows how the ballet will end. Every show will have a different person who is sacrificed. It’s just the luck of the draw. It makes it a very unique experience for that particular audience.”
Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, “Theme and Variations” is Balanchine at his neoclassical best. It has been called the niece of “The Sleeping Beauty” for the way it brings the glittering world of 19th century Russian ballet into the 20th century.
“I had a great time performing ‘Theme and Variations’ at Boston Ballet,” Carney said. “For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. You’re like, ‘This is great.’ It gets bigger and better and more exciting and finishes on a very big, strong note.
“I just love that our season will finish with a bold statement that we are a strong, powerful company.”
You can reach Patrick Neas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kansas City Ballet’s 2016-17 season
Live music will be provided by the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Ramona Pansegrau. All performances are at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, unless otherwise noted. For more information, call 816-931-8993 or visit KCBallet.org.
▪ Aug. 27: Sixth Annual Kansas City Dance Day, a full day of performances and classes in dance, movement and fitness. (Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, 500 W. Pershing Road)
▪ Oct. 7-16: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Choreography by Bruce Wells and music by Felix Mendelssohn.
▪ Dec. 3-24: “The Nutcracker.” Choreography by Devon Carney and music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
▪ Feb. 10-18, 2017: New Moves, a new choreography showcase. (Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity)
▪ March 31-April 9: “The Sleeping Beauty.” Music by Tchaikovsky. Choreography by Carney after Marius Petipa.
▪ May 12-21: “The Lottery.” The spring program will feature “Interplay” with choreography by Jerome Robbins and music by Morton Gould; “The Lottery” with choreography by Val Caniparoli and music by Robert Moran; and “Theme and Variations” with choreography by George Balanchine and music by Tchaikovsky.