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Segerstrom center gets en pointe

Taste ballet with new takes on classic tales, the Bournonville method and a Latin flair to the European traditions.

April 15, 2011|By Candice Baker

The Bournonville school was formed by Danish ballet master August Bournonville in the mid 1800s. Essentially, to view the Bournonville method performed is to step back into the past; it's a preservation of 19th century French classical dance, which has for the most part disappeared from use. It is performed with an understated grace exemplified by lowered eyes, arms primarily at first position (or "preperatoire"), and quick footwork.

"After that, we'll have the National Ballet of Cuba, under the artistic direction of Alicia Alonso, who was born of the Legends of the Dance world. The fact that this woman is still traveling with the company is a special treat for our audiences," Morr said. "When you think about the legacy that this company has created for their tiny little country, and how she has kept them in the foreground of the arts world today, it's really a miracle."

Since founding the company with her husband in 1948, Alonso, one of the world's greatest ballerinas, has blended the formal training and romanticism of the European schools with Latin flair. Her company's dancers earn about $30 a month of income, which in Cuba is comparable with the country's top doctors and professionals.

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"We have always, since the center opened, had a focus on the major dance companies of the world," Morr said. "Through the generosity of our donors, we have been able to maintain that presence. I believe that the consistency of the numbers of dance companies over the years has remained high.

"I think, over the years, that we have absolutely created an audience for dance, and that they are very much aware of current trends in dance and the artists who are currently at the top of their form. They keep track of choreographers."

The center also offers a top-notch education component to its dance programming.

"Before every performance, we make available to all ticket holders a preview of what they will see that night," Morr said. "Most often, the speaker does a review of the choreography, or a review of the production, and any pertinent parts of the ballet that would be significant to their enjoyment. And supporting that, we do master classes; with every company that comes through, we invite local students to participate with one of their great teachers. All companies bring their own creative staff; the opportunity to have a master class with one of the teachers is unique to this area. The Bournonville company is a great opportunity to showcase a style that's unique to many people."

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