The heart of the Orange County performing arts scene started beating again this past weekend.
Thirteen months after the halls of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts were closed and dormant by the COVID-19 pandemic, an 18-member corps of dancers from the American Ballet Theater kicked off the programming to live audiences on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
A 50-minute, four-part ballet program titled “United in Motion” was filmed this weekend and will be available for digital viewing from May 12-26.
The news was that the dances were seen in person by more than 400 people during the three performances.
For the first time, masked and socially distanced dance fans dotted the upper floors of Segerstrom Hall, reveling in the return of real-time indoor performances.
One of those in attendance was Jackie Glass from Newport Beach, still floating in a Sunday morning ballet.
“It was exciting to walk into the theater, the experience of being there again,” said Glass, a longtime supporter of the Centre’s artistic programming.
“The dancers live, mix with their music, create, express… it was wonderful to find that again,” she says.
“We are just very happy and relieved,” said Segerstrom chairman Casey Reitz.
“We were nervous for a while because we didn’t know when we were going to be able to reopen. But for morale and for people to start to see, we can do it and feel comfortable here was important.
Segerstrom’s association with ABT dates back 35 years, when the center has presented dozens of the New York-based company’s full-story ballet programs and mixed-element programs.
At the end of March, ABT dancers arrived in Costa Mesa for a five-week cloistered residence, wearing masks and standing at a distance from each other for the first two weeks while crossing the street from a hotel neighbor to repeat.
The dances on display, performed to recorded music and without intermission or recalls, included contemporary pieces by choreographers Lauren Lovette and Darrell Grand Moultrie as well as a rarely seen 1949 pas de deux choreographed by Victor Gsovsky.
Injury to one of the dancers during rehearsal resulted in a fourth ballet by choreographer Jessica Lang recording songs by Tony Bennett, to be replaced by the 2nd act “Swan Lake” Pas de Deux.
The company’s launch of Lovette’s “La Follia Variations” kicked off the program.
To music of the same name by Francesco Geminiani, and with stunning red, blue and purple outfits by fashion designer Victor Glemaud, the piece featured eight dancers intertwined in flowing sets.
Two short couples, each with single dancers, followed. The classic 2nd act Pas de Deux of “Swan Lake” has been seen on the Segerstrom stage dozens of times over the decades and the familiar and elegant dance of courtship was once again welcome as the “Grand Pas Classique” were a spectacular couple.
Moultrie’s “Indestructible Light” brought the program to a close. Stimulated by instrumental jazz tracks from the fleet of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Neal Hefti and Billy Strayhorn – heavy on the Ellington – eight dancers merged classical technique with jazz-hand action that worked on period music , with the sparkling black and spare Mark Eric gym outfits. as the action revolved around the stage.
“Expression, movement, energy, learning, it’s all part of dancing,” Glass said. “It’s so beautiful when you’re there for that.”
The ballet program has spearheaded a revival of live entertainment options locally.
The weekend also saw the reopening of the Anaheim Convention Center for live performances, welcoming 300 people to attend a live touring youth dance competition. Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm have set opening dates for the next month or so.
And the South Coast Repertory Theater establishes its first-ever outdoor summer residence in Mission San Juan Capistrano with two fully staged live musical works, “American Mariachi” and “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown,” in a directory over two weeks. from mid-July.
Currently on Segerstrom’s calendar, beyond several outdoor performances at its Argyros Plaza in April and May, the next indoor performances currently scheduled for the venue only take place in November, when a touring production of a Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” week is coming.
While artists and companies still set travel times, staff on leave to bring back, and tickets to sell, Reitz is yet to be able to make official announcements on future schedules in 2021.
But take hope.
“I think, in general, we’re probably looking at performance outdoors for a lot of the summer,” Reitz said.
“And then – it’s short and it’s really the challenge – but definitely after Labor Day we’re going to be reactivating the Samueli Theater. And I like to believe that by maybe September, certainly October, we will have reactivated Segerstrom Hall and the concert hall as well.