Cleveland Ballet looking forward, back, and abroad on season opener at Playhouse Square (preview)

All three pieces on Cleveland Ballet's season opener have roots far beyond late 2017 in Northeast Ohio. At the same

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The evolutionary essence of dance will be made manifest by Cleveland Ballet's season opener this weekend at Playhouse Square.

All three pieces on the program were inspired by the work of an artist outside the company. The actual dancing will be the work of Cleveland Ballet but the dances themselves all have roots far beyond this time and place.

"I wanted to give some representation of what we do here," said Gladisa Guadalupe, Cleveland Ballet's artistic director, alluding to the troupe's new status as a resident company at Playhouse Square. "We have our style, but you can never say you're done. You always have to reinvent yourself."

On its face, "Les Sylphides," the program's centerpiece, doesn't look all that collaborative. It's a canonic work by Fokine, a repertoire staple, an abstract "white ballet" setting of piano pieces by Chopin with little to no story-line.

"It's 28 minutes of non-stop beautiful music," Guadalupe said. "People will enjoy it and respect it. It's history."

For Cleveland Ballet, however, this "Les Sylphides" is more than just a revival of a classic. It's a chance to connect to the past, through a living link.

Guadalupe herself might have brought "Les Sylphides" to the stage, if only she hadn't been too busy choreographing and rehearsing the rest of the program. Instead, for the task, she hired Aygul Abougalieva, a ballerina brought up in the Russian school and well-versed in its hallmarks of precision and expression through the eyes, hands, and arms.

"We cannot get any closer to the original," Guadalupe explained. "When you look at her, you can see that training. I wanted [our dancers] to experience that style from somebody who was born in that environment."

Guadalupe herself choreographed the other two works on the program. But she didn't work in a vacuum. In those cases, too, she leaned on others, deriving creative energy from giants in the fields of Baroque and popular music.

"Concerto" is a setting of Bach's D-Minor Piano Concerto. It's a piece Guadalupe said she has long loved, whose speed and intricacy she has long yearned to bring to life in dance form.

Different story behind "Collage of Sinatra Songs." To that revered singer, Guadalupe was a newcomer. As with Bach, however, she had no trouble choreographing his music. The five tunes she chose all but set themselves.

"The moment I started choreographing, it was done," Guadalupe said. "It's no wonder he was such an inspiration to so many people, here and abroad."

Cleveland Ballet is also looking abroad (well, to a U.S. territory) this weekend, in hopes of doing some good outside the realm of dance. Moved by the plight of Guadalupe's homeland Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the company has opted to donate a portion of its proceeds Saturday to a fund supporting orphanages and nursing homes on the island.

Chalk it up as a charitable version of what this Cleveland Ballet program is all about: building on the work of others.

"This is what ballet is based on," Guadalupe said. "This is our DNA."


Cleveland Ballet

What: "Les Sylphides," "Concerto," and "Collage of Sinatra Songs."

When: 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14.

Where: Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.

Tickets: $25-$69. Go to or call 216-241-6000.

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