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Documentary on Ib Andersen’s Topia at the DBG – Sun & Mon May 24-25, 2020 only

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Posted (edited)

UPDATE: The full documentary is no longer available, but you can still watch several minutes of the actual performance at the Desert Botanical Garden here:

Ballet Arizona presents TOPIA at Desert Botanical Garden

 

Topia is a site-specific ballet set in the lush springtime Sonoran Desert, spanning a mammoth 80-foot-wide stage, and performed to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (Pastorale).

Topia – Desert Ballet (a Documentary)

BA_topia_17-968-by_iziliaev.jpg
Arianni Martin & Helio Lima in Ib Andersen’s Topia, on a breezy evening. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

This documentary is an hour long, and runs the gamut from artists’ pastimes to bulldozing the Desert Botanical Garden site, and everything in between. The very best parts are 1) about 4 minutes of snippets of the ballet itself - at night in the DBG, and 2) watching Mr. Andersen at work in the studio, along with his commentary. For those who may not want to invest an entire hour, here are some links to guide you:

Opening Night Performance Snippets (50:36)

Pre-Show class at Sunset and First Nighttime Dress Rehearsals (44:16)

Choreographing 1st Movement (2:20)
Choreographing 2nd Movement (14:44)
Choreographing 3rd Movement (20:46)
Choreographing 4th Movement (27:22)
Choreographing 5th Movement (35:28)

Topia has been performed more than 45 times, in the springs of 2012, 2013, and 2017. The audience experience is sublime – come early, have diner and wine at your table, watch the dancers warm up as the sun sets behind the Papago Buttes, enjoy the cooling desert breeze, and, once the sun has set,  enjoy the ballet. Personally, every time I hear the opening notes of the Pastorale, I am immediately transported to this happy place.

BA_topia_17-2190-by_iziliaev.jpg
Nayon Iovino in Ib Andersen’s Topia, photo by Alexander Iziliaev

2012 Topia Original Cast
1st Movement

Joseph Cavanaugh, Myles Lavallee, Elye Olson, Michal Wozniak, Slawomir Wozniak, Gleidson Vasconcelos

Kenna Draxton, Kara Hanretty, Jessica Phillips

Paola Hartley, Zherlin Ndudi

Amanda Eddleman, Erica Felsch, Kendra Mitchell-Dahl

2nd Movement
Natalia Magnicaballi and Atrit Zejnati
Jillian Barrell and Shea Johnson
Tzu-Chia Huang and Ilir Shtylla

Beau Campbell, Sarah Chisholm, Amanda Eddleman, Erica Felsch, Kara Hanretty, Kanako Imayoshi, Kendra Mitchell-Dahl, Breanne Starke

3rd Movement
Roman Zavarov

Beau Campbell, Sarah Chisholm, Kenna Draxton, Amanda Eddleman, Erica Felsh, Kara Hanretty, Kanako Imayosh, Kendra Mitchell-Dahl, Jessica Phillips, Breanne Stark

4th Movement
Joseph Cavanaugh, Shea Johnson, Myles Lavallee, Zherlin Ndudi, Elye Olson, Michal Wozniak, Slawomir Wozniak, Gleidson Vasconcelos, Roman Zavarov

5th Movement
Entire Cast

Other productions at the Desert Botanical Garden have included:

  • ·         Round (2016) – Ballet with a circular stage and audience on all sides, to various music, including portions of Afternoon of a Faun and Daphnis and Chloe. Studio Trailer Here
  • ·         Eroica (2018, 2019) – To Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony Performance Snippets Here
  • ·         The Four Seasons (2021?? Originally scheduled for2020) – Vivaldi, of course.
Edited by fiddleback
Corrected the year of "Round".

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I love the "wait for the car to drive through" part of practicing in the parking lot :lol:.

So many dancers I miss are in this. 

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Just noticed this on BAZ website:

“Join us on YouTube for a live post-show chat to discuss the documentary ‘Topia: Desert Dance’ on Tuesday, May 26 at 4:30pm PDT. Ask Ballet Arizona dancers Jillian Barrell and Sasha Vincett questions about what it is like to prepare, rehearse, and perform at Desert Botanical Garden. Click here to watch.”

(Here's where I found the info, just in case the link changes - https://balletaz.org/virtual-events/ )

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

I love the "wait for the car to drive through" part of practicing in the parking lot :lol:.

Alas, the strip mall facility where BAZ had been located (with parking lot rehearsal space) is a thing of the past. It's amazing what they had been able to accomplish in such a modest home. About a year after this video, they moved into new purpose-built facility. It includes a black box theater large enough to rehearse even Topia.

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Posted (edited)

I watched the entire video. The interaction of art and nature’s beauty is something that I think about a lot. There’s a lot of good stuff here. I hope that folks keep building on this.

I would have chosen a time when you could see the natural surroundings more, sunset, but I’m sure that they had a reason or concept in mind.

The idea, briefly mentioned at the beginning, of making the dancers abstractions, representations or integral parts of nature as well as illustrating their artistic identities is a very interesting one. The Cloud Gate Dance Theater’s “Moon Water” video (highly recommended) seen earlier at the ‘Free Streaming’ topic gets into this beautifully. It even eliminates the music at the end.

Nice concept and a lot of beautiful dancing from Ballet Arizona.

 

Edited by Buddy

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1 hour ago, Buddy said:

I would have chosen a time when you could see the natural surroundings more, sunset,

Buddy, here’s my guess: I suspect the thrust is to make this every bit as ‘theatrical’ as an actual theatre performance, with lighting playing an important role. At the DBG, there are only side-lighting towers (no front lighting), so dancers are outlined, and really stand out against the fairly dark background, and the focus, for the most part, is purely on forms and the dancing.

However, at a few quiet moments (minutes?), the lights are pointed at the desert background and it makes for a stunning setting (below) – especially if the palo verde are swaying in the breeze. Overall, this is, I think, a good balance – you wouldn’t want too much of a good thing.

120503_baz_0542.jpg

As to sunsets, skies are normally very clear in May, so sunsets are beautiful, but not especially colorful. If you're lucky enough to show up on the right night, you'll have a few high clouds, the reward being a magnificent background behind the dancers while they’re warming up:

https://youtu.be/aDqlllawALo?t=2743

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59 minutes ago, fiddleback said:

Buddy, here’s my guess: I suspect the thrust is to make this every bit as ‘theatrical’ as an actual theatre performance, with lighting playing an important role. At the DBG, there are only side-lighting towers (no front lighting), so dancers are outlined, and really stand out against the fairly dark background, and the focus, for the most part, is purely on forms and the dancing.

 

However, at a few quiet moments (minutes?), the lights are pointed at the desert background and it makes for a stunning setting (below) – especially if the palo verde are swaying in the breeze. Overall, this is, I think, a good balance – you wouldn’t want too much of a good thing.

 

120503_baz_0542.jpg

 

As to sunsets, skies are normally very clear in May, so sunsets are beautiful, but not especially colorful. If you're lucky enough to show up on the right night, you'll have a few high clouds, the reward being a magnificent background behind the dancers while they’re warming up:

 

https://youtu.be/aDqlllawALo?t=2743

 

Thanks, Fiddleback. What you say makes fine sense. I do feel that if you're going to the large effort of bringing all this outdoors, why not take full advantage of a magnificent setting and environment.  And they could maybe save a lot of money on technical equipment, lighting for instance, although night time certainly reduces the air-conditioning costs and the desert stars are always magnificent. 

There are so many nice ways to approach artistic interaction with nature and this performance is a fine example.

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Ballet Arizona is showing Topia again, this Sunday, June 7 for 24 hours only on their YouTube channel from 9 am Pacific Time

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This looks like the actual performance of Topia.  The earlier presentation was a doc on the making of the work.

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