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[Blog] Colburn School Dance Recital May 24: Danish “Flower Festival” to Cuban “Manteca” (+ Video)

My 15-year-long ballet “career” has introduced me to some astounding music, from Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings in C major” (from George Balanchine’s “Serenade”) to Danny Elfman’s “Beetlejuice” score (from a funky piece by my amazing Westside Ballet teacher Veronica Apodaca). Now, I’m again adding to the list. In a recital Friday May 24 at The Colburn School’s Zipper Hall, I’ll perform two pieces with Colburn’s adult ballet class – and our music ranges from 19th century classical to 20th century Latin jazz.

Here’s a teaser. (I am in the dark, flared pants and black t-shirt.) Update: See full performance video below!

The first piece is “Flower Festival in Genzano,” written by Danish composers Edvard Helsted and Holger Simon Paulli for a one-act ballet choreographed by Danish master Auguste Bournonville in 1858. As with several Bournonville works (like the famous “Napoli,” which I once had the pleasure to perform), it takes place in Italy – so you can imagine the spirited, carefree attitude it aimed to convey. (Apparently Danish society at the time was obsessed with Italy!) Although companies seldom perform the full ballet, the pas de deux is still popular — and that’s the music we’re using. The pas de deux is considered one of Bournonville’s “most perfect compositions,” a charming duet expressing both joy and playfulness. Bournonville’s style is light, simple, exuberant, beautiful – just like the choreography by our teacher Lucy Record.

Then we travel a few worlds and eras away to Manteca.” In Spanish, “manteca” means lard, or butter. But in Afro-Cuban slang, it apparently can mean “marijuana.” Written in 1947, “Manteca” is considered one of the first blends of Afro-Cuban style and jazz; it resulted from a collaboration between Cuban musician (and Santeria devotee) Chano Pozo, American arranger Gil Fuller, and Dizzy Gillespie, trumpeter extraordinaire.

Search “Manteca” on YouTube, and you’ll find a million versions – proof that the music lends itself to countless variations in style, rhythm, and tempo. It also indicates the song’s enduring legacy as a pioneer of Latin jazz. My class will dance to Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s rendition from his 2003 album “Trumpet Evolution.” I especially enjoy the shifts in mood as it progresses from section to section, moving from Cuban bongo beats to a lyrical chorus to an exuberant trumpet solo. And of course, you gotta love the jubilant shouts of “manteca!” I don’t think I’ve had this much fun with ballet since “Beetlejuice.”

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WHAT: “An Evening of Dance” featuring Colburn’s pre-professional and adult dance classes
WHEN: Friday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Zipper Hall at The Colburn School (200 S. Grand Avenue, L.A., 90012)
COST: Free

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Performance of “Flower Festival in Genzano”

Performance of “Manteca”

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