Four choreographers bring ‘newness’ to Richmond Ballet’s New Works Festival

Naomi Robinson and Richmond Ballet dancers in Flight by Nancy Paradis. Photo by Sarah Ferguson/Richmond Ballet

Natalie Barr, Staff Writer

Twenty-five hours over five days was all the time choreographers and the Richmond Ballet team had to put on for the New Works Festival, according to a Richmond Ballet press release. 

The New Works Festival, a “fan-favorite” show for Richmond Ballet lovers, features four brand new ballet performances, all choreographed by established and up-and-coming choreographers, according to the press release. 

The performances and choreographers are “Bird’s Eye View” by Norbert De La Cruz III, “Flight” by Nancy Paradis, “Lost Keys” by Claudia Schreier and “Fading Creatures” by Yury Yanowsky, as stated in the press release. 

Richmond Ballet dancer Celeste Gaiera has been with the company since 2021, Gaiera said. Gaiera knew she wanted to become a professional dancer at age 11, she said. Gaiera enjoys the small team of 16 dancers at Richmond Ballet; as it gives her the opportunity to always do what she loves.

Gaiera loves the versatility of ballet that she is able to perform with the company with classical pieces such as “The Nutcracker” and contemporary performances the New Works Festival brings, according to Gaiera.

“I love it [New Works Festival] because you get to work with new choreographers and that experience is so fun because it’s like a co-creation [between dancer and choreographer] since they’re trying to fit their vision and then you get to help them bring it to life,” Gaiera said.

Gaiera performed in both “Flight” and “Fading Creatures,” two performances where Gaiera had to portray different characters and styles, she said.

“I start off really having to be a ballerina. Very lifted and presenting and projecting. It’s very spicy and a bit of salsa, but ballet technique,” Gaiera said. “Then in intermission I put in my headphones and get really grounded and earthy and creaturey. It’s very fun to have the difference and just a good challenge as an artist.”

Gaiera hopes the audience was “moved” by all the performances and recognizes all the emotion and expression the dancers put into the pieces, she said.

“I think we always hope that as much as it moves and inspires us, it inspires the audience,” Gaiera said. “I also hope in particular for the New Works the audience enjoys the versatility.”

Rachel Nash, Richmond Ballet dancer, is a new dancer with Richmond Ballet, she said. She performed in the piece “Flight,” according to Nash.

Nash likes how the festival puts a strong emphasis on the creation process, she said.

“I’ve always loved the creation process, that’s sometimes even more rewarding than the end result,” Nash said. “There’s something about the hunger that everyone shares to create this new living piece of art that’s a really magical experience to be part of.”

Nash appreciates how involved fans of Richmond Ballet are and enjoys being a part of something the community can experience, she said.

“I’ve never seen an audience get so excited about dance and it just makes you want to do it more,” Nash said.

Bridgette Rivers attends Richmond Ballet performances as often as she can and likes the studio series performances as they allow for a more intimate nature, she said.

Rivers attended the festival last year and as a dancer herself she likes how the festival brings new creativity, she said.

“I feel like they push the envelope a lot and you see some exciting new ideas out of the traditional ballet realm,” Rivers said.

Rivers enjoys how the dancers at Richmond Ballet perform a variety of ballet styles, as it allows for the audience to connect with the pieces more, according to Rivers. She brought friends to performances who were surprised with the versatility, she said.

“While they love all the ballet pieces, that was sort of what they expected and so when they saw some of the more modern or contemporary pieces, it was like ‘oh I didn’t even know that was going to be a part of this,’” Rivers said.

The festival is the third performance out of four studio series the company will have this year, according to Audrey Fain, public relations and content manager for Richmond Ballet. Each of the four choreographers bring a different and diverse approach to their show created for the festival, Fain said.

“It’s really a fascinating way to see how to really get inside the mind of the choreographer because how do they utilize the time? The dancers? They’ve never met our dancers or worked with them,” Fain said. “ How do they walk into a space and make their vision come to life?” 

Fain hopes the audience will see the complexity in all four pieces and experience all aspects of ballet; not just classical ballet, she said.

“We’re really excited to show the spectrum of ballet. People have in their mind when they think of what ballet is often have in their mind one particular view of ballet,” Fain said. “We’re excited to show the range.”

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