Ballet AZ Blog

Opening Night: An Interview with Ib Andersen

I got a question where I was asked, “What is the theme of this season”? That is a really hard question, because we don’t have themes. Well, the theme would be that it is all ballet; that’s not unusual. What is exciting though is that we are using Phoenix Symphony in an unusual way- we are adding the orchestra to the Balanchine program. That’s super exciting with these three ballets. Which is Emeralds, Gabriel Fa u r é, has amazing music. Ray mon da Variations is new to us, we’ve never done, and that is Glazunov- which is unusual music. Then we have fourteen instruments for The Four Temperaments. A score Balanchine actually paid for after he made some money in Hollywood, doing some movies. He commissioned Hindemith to write his music, so it’s very unusual.

What are we doing different this year, that audience have maybe never seen?

Well, we have two ballets that are new to us. One is Christopher Wheeldon’s, Within The Golden Hour. Which I would say is probably one of the best ballets created in this century. I feel very lucky that we are allowed to do this piece. It premiered in San Francisco Ballet I actually saw- not the premiere, but a few days after. I saw the show I loved it. Then it has been presented at Royal Ballet, which now has new costumes that we will do. It is a privilege that we are allowed to do this. Then Na yon Iovino, dancer from the Company, is doing a new ballet for Contemporary Moves.

What emotion can the audience expect to experience during these performances?

Well we have two- we have Cinderella, which is a story ballet, everyone knows that story. What is unusual is the music that Prokofiev has composed for that ballet is, in my opinion one of the greatest ballet scores ever written. It’s so intense, in a way, there is only one composer in my opinion, well Tchaikovsky to a degree- Tchaikovsky goes deeper. It is very emotional music every time I hear it, I just am floored about how incredible that score is. How it takes you to so many places emotionally. We are doing it with an orchestra, so I think that is a real treat for anyone, if you know the story of Cinderella. Which many people may know the story through Walt Disney, this is different- it’s so much more richer. It is not one-dimensional; it is three-dimensional then some. Then we have Giselle, I think it started around the 1830s. That ballet is probably one of the best-constructed ballets, in the way of storytelling, how one thing leads to the other. If you have a good show, a good Giselle, a good Albrecht, then everything is good- it is. It tears you up emotionally. To me it is extraordinary that a ballet that old can do that. It is almost 200 years old, & it still has impact, wow! It is as good as it gets.

Is there a piece this year that you think will especially challenge the dancers themselves?

Actually, think that all the ballets will challenge the dancers, in different ways. I mean I would say this year we are doing many ballets that are emotional. That is always hard to do especially if the choreography is very challenging. Then on top of that, you have to do all of these very specific emotional things when you have a story ballet. Even when, you know, in ballets that are more abstract, it is all about ballet. It always is! That is the strength of ballet- that we can do things with our bodies that you cannot do with words. That’s a reason why you should come to the ballet!

Is there a specific move or anything specific that’s a really challenging move that you can name that you know is going to be somewhere in the choreography?

Well, I think that pirouettes, which is when you turn on the floor, not jumping. You can do it in a million different ways; partnered, by yourself, with an open leg, or with a close leg. That is a move that can almost express any emotion. All depending how you do it, slow open with a big leg, or fast. That’s definitely a signature move in ballet. It’s one, when you’re a little kid, it’s one of the hardest things that you learn- because you need to spot. I remember when I was a kid that was hard to learn. Then there are the dancers that are the natural turners, people that can’t turn- but they still try. It is actually one of my favorite steps for sure.

Why do you think people who are maybe less familiar with ballet should come experience this season?

I think people that are not familiar with ballet should come see any of the things we are doing. They will hopefully be blown away about what feelings. If you know ballet, it is like if you play a song, & that song will take you to a places. Ballet is exactly the same, it will take you places that only music can in a way. In that way, it is all the same singing, dancing, music- it’s about being human. You know celebrating, connecting with your own emotions sort of have to right in front of you by dances. You just have to open up your eyes & ears- people come flooding in hopefully.

What show are you most looking forward to choreographing?

We are in a special time I think the odds are, especially with what we’re doing, is about lifting people up. I think the arts now are more important than ever I think. We do have the ability to lift people, in every possible way. That is why I will be premiering Rite of Spring for Ballet Arizona and the Valley at Desert Botanical Garden this year. Hopefully this new work that greatly challenges both the choreographer and the dancer set against the desert sunset will do just that, lift people up.

Why is ballet truly an art form; that you think can speak to everyone on some level?

I think ballet speaks to everyone on every level actually, because it is body language. We all have words, we talk- this that. But don’t forget, when we actually talk to someone you pick up the body language as much as what they actually say you pick up what are they wearing. All these things while that person is talking. With ballet, you don’t need to listen to the words, you just have to look at the body language. That’s why everyone can pick up, you know if your six months or ninety-six. You know it’s the same for the six month old the ninety-six. Then I think that many people think, “Oh, but it’s something sort of very specific”, it’s not. We only have two legs, two arms, one head, two eyes, a nose, a mouth. You’re used to seeing that as soon as you open your eyes, you see your mom- that is something that we are born with. That’s why I think of ballet as not difficult at all.

What would you say to someone that would say that they are too nervous, that they are shying away from attending a ballet; they are nervous that they are not going to get it, what would you say?

I would say that they are silly, for thinking they will not understand, or this or that. If you were to relate it to food, I mean of course there is something you don’t like, it’s not the ballet. I actually do think it’s for everyone. It’s also the combination of music movement- you do have to have an open mind though. To come in with a closed mind, you may come in a few times hopefully crack open that stubborn skull. It’s right there for everyone, I think.

Is there anything else you want to add in for the next season as a closer?

The only thing is ballet is, it’s everything like life is. We do maybe try to aim for something that is beautiful, something that will make you see things for the first time in a way. It’s amazing what a body can do. When you put a couple of bodies together & you all of a sudden those four dancers become architecture, become nature, or become ocean or can be in that way. Ballet can almost do anything. I don’t know what other arts can do that other than music.

Thank you so much for hopefully coming to the 22-23 season. I hope to see you there I can promise you that it will be worth it.

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