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Blurring line between ballet, Modern

The Arizona Republic, by Richard Nilsen

The 20th century – the century of Modernism – hit classical ballet, too. Early in the century, several ballet companies felt the need to update the repertoire and keep apace of events in painting, music and literature. In fact, Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes used some of the biggest names in painting, music and literature to create his innovative dances: Picasso, Stravinsky, Cocteau.

Diaghilev’s choreographers freed up movement and expression in dance; he hired a succession of innovative choreographers, including LĂ©onide Massine and Michel Fokine, telling them, “Astonish me!” And one of Diaghilev’s young choreographers went on to become the greatest ballet maker of the century, George Balanchine, who brought abstraction to classical dance.

In recent years, the divide between ballet and Modern dance has shrunk, with each genre borrowing from its rival.

Ballet Arizona’s next production, “Modern Masters,” March 25-27, includes choreography from Balanchine successor Christopher Wheeldon and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Alejandro Cerrudo, both of whom blur the distinctions between ballet and Modern.