Friday, March 27, 2015

Alexandra Cunningham and the Sacramento Ballet opens Swan Lake with a flawless performance

After watching Alexandra Cunningham's performance in Swan Lake at the Sacramento Community Center Theater, the best comparison I could come up with, Cunningham performed on the same level as the late great Freddie Mercury of Queen.

I had the pleasure of witnessing Freddie Mercury on three separate occasions  in the late 60s and early 70s and his spectacular stage presence and performance,  He was very seductive and crowds adored him.

Alexandra Cunningham as Odile with Stefan Calka as Prince Siegfried.
Photo credit: Keith Sutter
The same was so true for Miss Cunningham last evening when she danced the duel role of Odette and Odile.  As Odette her dance moves were precise, yet so fluid, and she captivated the audience.  But when she appeared as Odile, she quite literally seduced the audience as she beguiled Prince Siegfried, a role danced by the very talented Stefan Calka.


I spoke with Calka and Alexandra both after the show.  She told me she made some "mental notes" during her performance one that I considered flawless.  When I complemented Calka on his performance, he gave most of the credit to Miss Cunningham saying, "With a partner like Alex, it is s much easier."

It is a role that most every ballet dancer aspires to, and no doubt Miss Cunningham nailed it on this her first ever performance of Swan Lake.
Maggie Rupp, Lauryn Winterhalder, Karina Hagemeyer, and Evelyn TurnerPhoto credit: Keith Sutter

The quartet of Maggie Rupp, Lauryn Winterhalder, Karina Hagemeyer, and Evelyn Turner was unbelievable as they moved in perfect synchronization, not a miss-step anywhere.  There routine was extremely difficult as they traversed back and forth across the stage in tandem.

The entire troupe was inspiring to watch and the theater overflowed with beauty, talent, and most important of all a cast of people, reaching beyond those on stage who are committed to bringing the best in Ballet to the Sacramento region.

Hats off and thanks to Ron Cunningham, Carrine Binda, co-artistic directors of the Sacramento ballet, the Board of Directors, and all the stage crew and behind the scenes.

It was truly an amazing show!

Three performances remain so don't miss out.  Get your tickets now!
Now is the time to purchase your tickets before they sell out! There will be four performances of this incredible production of the grand ballet Swan Lake. Purchase tickets by clicking this link.

March 27 @ 7:30pm
March 28 @ 7:30pm
March 29 @ 2pm

Monday, March 23, 2015

Alexandra Cunningham - In the Spotlight


Alexandra Cunningham epitomizes beauty, grace, elegance, and sheer artistic brilliance on stage and in the studio. I have watched Miss Cunningham dance for almost half of her professional years and have seen her grow and flourish into a world-class ballerina.

What is so utterly amazing is that Cunningham could have chosen any field to go into - medicine, law, technology, public service, education, but she chose dance, a field within the performing arts which at times encompasses through artistic expression each of the many career paths for which she could have opted.

Ron Cunningham
Photo: Sacramento Ballet
Alex Cunningham is no doubt extraordinary. She is am amalgamation of her father, Ron Cunningham, known early in his career for his artistic inspirations as a principal dancer and choreographer with the Boston Ballet and her mother, Carinne Binda-Cunningham, known for her poise and beauty and technical expertise as a soloist, also with the Boston Ballet.


Carinne Binda-Cunningham
Photo: Sacramento Ballet
For the past 27 years the Sacramento community has been blessed with Ron Cunningham's creativity and artistic vision as Director of the Sacramento Ballet, and for the past 24 years we have enjoyed Carinne Binda's Cunningham's work alongside her husband on both creative and technical aspects of the ballets performed over their tenure at the Sacramento Ballet.

Now, that was just the lead-in to the reason for this brief "Artist Spotlight" article, and I apologize ahead of time to you,  Alex, for putting the added pressure on you.

Alexandra Cunningham
Photo: Sacramento Ballet
The Sacramento Community Center Theater should be packed Thursday night at the opening of Swan Lake, to see the culmination, the coming together, the apex of three brilliant artists' careers who not only share a love of ballet, but have something much more - they are family.

And when Miss Alexandra Cunningham steps on the stage to dance the roles of Odile and Odette, it is my hope that Sacramento stands up and takes notice of the trio of Cunningham's that have given so much to Sacramento!

I will be the first to stand and applaud them in their hard work and tremendous efforts to bring joy and art through the beauty of the ballet to the Sacramento community.




Now is the time to purchase your tickets before they sell out! There will be four performances of this incredible production of the grand ballet Swan Lake. Purchase tickets by clicking this link.


Opening night March 26 @ 7:30pm followed by three additional performances.
March 27 @ 7:30pm
March 28 @ 7:30pm
March 29 @ 2pm

Friday, March 6, 2015

Alexandra Cunningham and Susan Gartell prepare to take the Sacramento Community Center Theater's stage in the classical ballet Swan Lake

Two maidens, Alexandra Cunningham and Susan Gartell, some two decades ago, were both captivated by the beauty and grace of ballerinas moving on stage. But unlike Swan Lake's Odette, they were not subjugated by an evil prince; their holder was the dance- its power drawing them out of the forest of callings, and onto a clear and chosen path to becoming ballerinas.

Alexandra Cunningham
Sacramento Ballet
Cunningham, a dancer with the Sacramento Ballet and Gartell, a dancer with the Milwaukee Ballet, both being the epitome of grace and beauty, took time out of their busy schedules preparing to take the stage March 26th through the 29th in the the Sacramento Ballet's production of the classical ballet Swan Lake to give an interview about the exciting upcoming production.

Susan Gartell
Milwaukee Ballet
Each ballerina will assume dual roles of Odette and Odile, for two of the four performances. Neither has performed either role. Gartell has performed in Swan Lake as a professional dancer. But this will be Cunningham's first professional performance of Swan Lake.

Gartell said that Swan Lake is a great story about betrayal, redemption, falling in love and many human experiences and emotions and even though technique and stamina are important, she was quick to point out that "you can't do it {the ballet} without that," however "you have to make the audience love you and care about you."

Cunningham in the studio.
Both ballerinas have danced professionally now for a decade, and we talked about their evolution as dancers.  Cunningham said that over the years from apprentice to her current stage as a principal dancer her technique has improved tremendously and her fear has all but subsided.  She said, "I still get butterflies when I go on stage, but I'm not scared and I can just perform."

Visiting Milwaukee Ballet artist Gartell followed with a statement that spoke volumes about the strength of Swan Lake and how important this ballet is.  She said, "I have always referred to myself as a ballet dancer, but after playing Odile and Odette, I can call myself a ballerina."


Gartell on pointe.
Cunningham said that the role is "one of the most mature roles" she has ever had to play adding "It's a role that every little girl dreams of doing."

Both agreed that their upcoming roles are like the "pinnacle" of their careers and wonder where do they go from here.

This is an exciting time for these young ballerinas and an exciting time for Sacramento and its own World-class Ballet company.

Now is the time to mark your calendar or better yet purchase your tickets now any one of four performances of this sure to be incredible production of the grand ballet Swan Lake. Purchase tickets here.

March 26 @ 7:30pm
March 27 @ 7:30pm
March 28 @ 7:30pm
March 29 @ 2pm

Also next Friday, March 13, is the Sacramento Ballet's "Inside the Director's Studio," an informative event at the studio. Purchase tickets here.