We’re so excited to have our Level 8 and 9 students heading to the inaugural festival of The Ballet Alliance in Spokane, WA. Each year, in preparation for this event, the dancers present to the adjudicator, two pieces. Only one is selected to be performed at the festival. This year the dancers had an opportunity to work with two choreographers who are new to Marin Ballet, Eva Stone and Robert Kelley. Both choreographers did a wonderful job of creating works that not only suited the dancers wonderfully, but also grew them technically and artistically.
In the end, Robert Kelly’s piece, Arcadia, was chosen. We had a chance to ask Robert about his experience creating a piece on the Marin Ballet students.
“I’m primarily not a choreographer… I am motivational speech person.”
Before he begins a choreographic process, Robert Kelley doesn’t plan out a single step ahead of time. What he does do is listen to selections of music that he may want to use, but beyond that he prefers to walk into a studio and allow the inspiration to choreograph to come from the dancers standing in front of him. “It would be a disservice to their creativity and distrustful of the dancers to plan something ahead of time.”
Robert listened to three different music scores for about six months prior to working with the Marin Ballet dancers. So he knew the music well. But not until he saw the dancers in class did he decide which music he would use. “The moment I saw their plies, the moment I saw how they run across the floor… I knew which music I wanted.”
The music Robert chose was Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major Op 8. It’s a lively, lush score and the dancers don’t stop moving from the moment it starts. He created a seven minute ballet in only three days, rehearsing 3 to 4 hours a day! That’s fast! Robert works with young dancers in such a way that they feel challenged and pushed, as well as encouraged and supported. “My job is to lift the spirits and confidence. Doing the ballet is the secondary thing.”
Robert decided on the title of the piece, Arcadia, only after he completed it. What Robert loves most about Arcadia is seeing the strength of the corps de ballet; different bodies moving together in a unified way, yet each sharing their individual light. He’s proud of the work he produced, but mostly he’s proud of the dancers, and how earnest and receptive they were throughout the entire process. For him it was more about them and their process than anything else. “It’s a very sacred thing we do.”
Robert shared his vision of the costumes with Marin Ballet’s beloved costume designer, Christine Darch, and she worked her usual magic by creating beautifully layered tulle, ankle-length skirts with fitted bodices that match the piece perfectly.