Monday, February 28, 2011

UpClose with Jimmy Orrante and Gabriel Smith

BalletMet UpClose will feature two of the company’s own dancers. Jimmy Orrante and Gabriel Gaffney Smith will unleash a world premiere, inspired by a simple drop of water.

I had the privilege to interview the two in somewhere they are quite familiar, the dance studio.

It all began when Jimmy approached Gabe, “I want to make a dance around a drop of water,” he said. He explored from there, using the flow of water, the paths, the shapes, the feel.

Gabe found the perfect drop online and began editing, adding layers of music and sounds. Taking away and adding, and then taking away again. “Sometimes it happened by accident,” he said. He was so passionate talking about his process, about music in general.

And his music inspirations? Or the “most played” on his iPod as I liked to call it: Phillip Glass and Sigur Rós.

Phillip Glass: Known for his simple and repeating sounds, a sort of minimalist approach to music. Wrote Operas, symphonies, and compositions.

Sigur Rós: Icelandic, post-rock band with melodic, classical, and minimalist elements. Know for the ethereal sounds they produce. Just released the album Jonsi.

This will be Gabe's first commissioned composition. He has contributed to other BalletMet works including Jimmy's piece Coming Into View last season and former company dancer, Adam Hundt's dwell in 2009.

What’s amazing is that Gabe taught himself to play all different kinds of instruments. He has played the saxophone since third grade and was in choir too, he said. Everything else, he had to teach himself, including piano and guitar.

The title of the piece is Watercolor, with four different parts:

Part one is inspired by a drop of water. Jimmy liked how it was chaotic. How the drop falls and splashes, exploding in all directions.

Part two is inspired by a stream of water. How it starts off small, and grows bigger, cascading down.

Underwater is the inspiration for part three, like two beams of light that intertwine with each other beneath the surface. This is the pas de deux; a very fluid and sensual duet.

“That is my favorite part,” Gabe said. “The music is exciting.”

And part four? “I haven’t gotten that far,” Jimmy said as he laughed. “You thought I was on a roll didn’t you?”

He thinks the final section will be inspired by evaporation; how you know the process is there but you just can’t see it.

Both Jimmy and Gabe are very inspired by music. That is one of the reasons they worked so well together, Gabe said.
My last question was for both of them: “If you had to choose between dancing and composing, or dancing and choreography for the rest of your life, which would you choose?”

“It’s kind of crazy. I’m torn,” Gabe said. “There is something so euphoric about dancing; I just get so into the music.”

Jimmy laughed, “Let’s just say one hurts a lot less.”

About the choreographer and composer:

Jimmy Orrante
was a recipient of a 2005 Princess Grace Choreography Award. Now in his 16th season with BalletMet, the Los Angeles native has choreographed several works including Emergence in 2007, his first full-length ballet in 2009, The Great Gatsby, and Coming Into View last season. He attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Performing Arts and North Carolina School of the Arts. He attended the International Summer Workshop in Hungary; danced with Memphis Ballet, Nevada Dance Theatre and Los Angeles Chamber Ballet, and is on faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. A recipient of the Violetta Boft Award, he has performed with L.A.'s Dance Kaleidoscope, England's Northern Ballet Theatre and Dance St. Louis. He and his wife, former dancer Sonia Welker, have a son, Isaac, and daughters Aiyana and Imara.

Jimmy will perform in James Kudelka’s The Man in Black and David Parson’s piece.

Gabriel Gaffney Smith, from Saugerties, New York, began dancing at the Saugerties Ballet Center. After studying in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Graduate Program, he joined the company in 2005 as a corps de ballet member. Mr. Smith has also performed with River North Jazz Company in Chicago and Hisatomi Yoshiko Ballet in Japan. This is his third season with BalletMet.

Gabe will perform in Watercolor and The Man in Black.

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