Sacramento Ballet company dancer, Christopher B. Nachtrab, gives us the inside scoop on what he and the company are brewing up for this year’s Beer & Ballet series.
As a professional ballet dancer working with the Sacramento Ballet for the past seven years, I am continually impressed by the amount of passion, talent, and artistry that I am surrounded by on a daily basis. The dancers within our company are not simply artists — they are also advocates for the arts and willingly go beyond themselves to uplift the community through performances and outreach events. Each year the company presents a unique and fun performance series that allows company dancers to take complete charge for the very popular and anticipated Beer & Ballet.
As a senior company member, I have had many opportunities to annually create new works for Beer & Ballet. In the beginning, the process of creating a new work can be intimidating; our habitual training has always taught us to be somewhat submissive in the ballet studios — always receiving instructions and rarely doling them out. However, this distinct challenge of commanding a room allows a dancer to find his/her own voice and personal style. Under the guidance of our artistic directors, Ron and Carinne Cunningham, we are given free range to pick music, find costumes, and create a length of work that helps define something about who we are. Beer & Ballet is almost like annual self-therapy for us, a way in which we can break away from our molds and try something different. There is no competition and dancers continue to support one another as many take the leap (pun intended) into choreography. The purpose of this project is not to create a masterpiece (in fact, I myself, am sure I have created some real flops), but to experiment with our own ideas in a supportive, creative environment.
This season I was inspired by my parents and the music of their generation. During the Fall, I was listening to the radio and the so called “love” songs that dominated program. While many of the tunes were catchy and entertaining, I couldn’t help but feel sad for a generation whose music seems to make a mockery of love and relationships. Using my mother as a timeline, I began to search for songs that were popular in her youth — something that might have been playing on the radio when she first met my father, when my parents were dancing on their wedding day, or when they were driving my eldest brother home from the hospital. With this concept as my initial guide, I began to format an opening dance sequence that leads into three pas de deux (dance for two people) sections, culminating in a finale, using six songs (two of which I later discovered my mother did not like — oh well!). As one who has never been terribly lucky with love, I was motivated to use movement that mimicked those fleeting feelings of a new relationship or the affectionate embrace of seasoned love.
As Beer & Ballet approaches, I am currently in the process of completing my finale. Personally, I find it very difficult to “finish” my choreography, nervously moving through the remaining music like a child begrudgingly climbing the stairs to bed. A choreographic piece becomes very special as you are creating and I feel as though I am hesitant to put the final steps together because…well, because the process will be over. Once the piece has been completed, you feel very vulnerable because you must confront all that you’ve created and hope that it stands as a cohesive piece of art.
In the end, I am semi-confident that when I have finished choreographing in the upcoming week that I will be happy with and hopefully (fingers-crossed!), people will like it as well. Beer & Ballet is a wonderful program because it is so eclectic. I often tell those who want to begin attending the ballet regularly to begin with Beer & Ballet — the wide range of styles and music can help a new audience member discover what they like and what they dislike — it’s like a buffet of ballets, paired nicely with delicious Ruhstaller brews!
I invite you all to join The Sacramento Ballet as the company presents their original choreographic works at The Art Court Auditorium at Sacramento City College, February 19-28 — and keep a special eye out for my ballet, “For Frankie and Suzie”. For more event details, click here.
***This post was written by Sacramento Ballet company dancer, Christopher B. Nachtrab.