Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cunningham gives insights into the transformation of "Gatsby" to ballet

A brief education in the history of prohibition, a peek inside the creative mind of Ron Cunningham, the Sacramento Ballet’s choreographer and artistic director, and fantastic dancing were the happenings at the “Inside the Director’s Studio Event” Jan. 25.
'Jordan' (Isha Llyod) and 'Daisy' (Alexandra Cunningham) relaxing.
'Jordan' (Isha Llyod) and 'Daisy' (Alexandra Cunningham) relaxing.
W. Mark Dendy & Antonio Mears- 41 Paperclips Productions
Ron Cunningham talks about 'The Great Gatsby" while Alexandra Cunningham looks on.
Antonio Mears - 41 Paperclips Productions

The-event was a fitting preface to the Sacramento Ballet’s upcoming World Premiere of “The Great Gatsby.”
Cunningham loosened up the audience of the sold out event immediately. With only 10 days remaining before the World Premiere, Cunningham said, “Well, I think I have all the choreography done!”
The leader of the Sacramento Ballet for the past 25 years then explained that prohibition, brought on by the Volstead Act, was strictly American and that some of his dancers from abroad, had never heard of prohibition. He said that during prohibition,which was designed to stop people from drinking, did just the opposite. “People drank more, and sex was the obsession,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham talked briefly about F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby” and of the challenges of creating ballet based on a narrative, and when asked by an audience member if he ever used ideas from other creators, he responded, “I’ve tried to steal ideas of others, but it never works, because somehow I see things differently."
Cunningham also praised his wife and co-director, Carinne Binda, for her work; he jokingly added “and editing.”
Anyone familiar with the American novel “The Great Gatsby” could see through the craft involved in shaping this great literary work into the beautiful art-form of ballet - evidenced by the form and movement of the dancers, Cunningham’s “medium.”
The dancers performed a handful of excerpts from the full ballet; prior to each piece, Cunningham explained how he designed the dance to tell the story.
Afterwards, questions were taken from the audience.
Alexandra Cunningham (the character Daisy) responded to a question about acting lessons. “We do have to act, but all my acting has come about through my experiences, not only in ballet, but all aspects of life. I have never taken an acting lesson,” she said.
Expounding on the question, Chris Nachtrab (the character Buchanan) said, “Working with “Gatsby” is very different than the fairy tale ballets. The people are real people. There fictional characters, but they are real.”
The final question of the eve was regarding the new film. “The Great Gatsby” in 3D starring Leonardo de Caprio. Cunningham with a hand sweep towards his dancers cleverly remarked, “You don’t have to wait until May to see it in 3D.”
Sacramento Ballet's "The Great Gatsby' premieres Feb. 7 at 7:30 P.M. at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. The show will run through Feb. 10, 2013.
Attendees will be treated to a second performance following "The Great Gatsby" - George Balanchine’s "Who Cares?"
Tickets can be purchased at the

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