Curtain Critic: Ballet Arizona to perform ‘Napoli’ for first time in U.S.

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(Nikiana Medansky/DD)
Ballet Arizona will be the first company in the United States to perform the romantic ballet “Napoli” this month at Phoenix Symphony Hall. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)

Ballet Arizona will be the first American ballet company to perform “Napoli” in the United States when it runs with the Phoenix Symphony at Phoenix Symphony Hall Feb. 12-15.

“Napoli” is a “unique and demanding piece,” said Ballet Arizona Director of Marketing and Communication Samantha Franck. This makes it difficult for most companies to invest their time in it, as well as in the costumes and the set, but Ballet Arizona has the resources and connections to invest in the ballet, Franck said.

“Napoli” is a traditional, classical, storybook ballet where boy meets girl and they fall in love, Franck said. The couple must “overcome trials and temptations so that light prevails over darkness in the best tradition of Romanticism,” as stated on the Ballet Arizona website.

People can expect to see a lot of actual story telling using gestural language in “Napoli,” meaning hand gestures to get a point across rather than vocally like in theater, said Kyle Rivieccio, graduate assistant at the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

Ib Andersen, Artistic Director of Ballet Arizona, is staging “Napoli,” which was originally choreographed by August Bournonville. Franck said Andersen’s heritage and background with the Royal Danish Ballet helped to bring the premiere of Napoli to the U.S. A representative from the Royal Danish Ballet is assisting the company with some of the set preparations for “Napoli,” she said.

According to Ballet Arizona’s website, Andersen danced with the Royal Danish Ballet, and was the youngest principal dancer for the company at age 20. He also danced with the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine, a well-known figure in the ballet world.

In preparation for a show like “Napoli,” the dancers take a ballet class from 9-10:30 a.m. to keep their technique sharp and then have rehearsal from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Franck said.

Not only are there four days of showings for “Napoli,” there is also a gala that Ballet Arizona is holding on Feb. 6 called “Dance With Me, A Night In Napoli.” This is one of the company’s major fundraising efforts since ticket sales only cover about half of the its expenses, Franck said.

“Most people’s introduction to ballet is ‘Nutcracker,’” Rivieccio said. “Napoli isn’t widely known in the states.”

During this year’s annual “Nutcracker” performance from Ballet Arizona, the company had marketing materials from “Napoli” displayed in the lobby, as well as some of the costumes, Hannah Cooper, box office manager, said.

Cooper said marketing the show during “The Nutcracker” generated interest about the Napoli performance since most people had never heard of it before. The company is also using newspaper and radio ads to promote “Napoli,” Cooper said.

For more information about “Napoli” and performance tickets, visit balletaz.org.

Contact the author at Madison.Rowbotham@asu.edu. Contact the columnist at mbilker@asu.edu.

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