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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: February 5, 2018

Portland Ballet collaborates with Colby and Boston-based choreographer on ‘Gallery’

Written by: Bob Keyes

Portland Ballet is collaborating with Colby College and Boston-based choreographer Yury Yanowsky on a new work that will anchor the dance company’s annual winter choreographers’ showcase, “Gallery.” The dance program will be presented this weekend and next at Portland Ballet’s theater on Forest Avenue. The piece also will be performed on the Colby campus in Waterville later this month.

Yanowsky, a French-born Spanish dancer who is on the faculty at Harvard University, has been working with dancers from Portland Ballet and Colby on a piece called “Origins,” which explores society’s fascination with digital devices and their impact on our relationships. The dancers will work with a series of lighted cubes that represent tablets, phones and computers. The soft-edged cubes look a little like the old boxy iMacs.

“We’ve become so involved with our machines, we’ve lost connection with each other,” Yanowsky said.

This piece probes those lost connections with the music of Vivaldi. The 15 dancers will wear dark leotards and tights to emphasize the impersonal nature of our connections and to highlight the dancers’ movement.

Yanowsky’s career has spanned two decades with Boston Ballet. He has set choreography for Boston Ballet, Boston Ballet II and Festival Ballet Providence, among others. In 2015, he won the Choreography Award in the Erik Bruhn Ballet Competition. In addition to teaching at Harvard, he teaches at Centro Corepgraphico in Las Palmas, Spain.

He’s been in Portland since January, working with 10 dancers from Portland Ballet and five from Colby. The piece was developed during Colby’s Jan Plan term, which offers students intense off-campus learning opportunities.

The collaboration between professional dancers from Portland Ballet and the students at Colby is new this year, though the roots of it go back a few years. Annie Kloppenberg, who is on the faculty at Colby, has been involved with the previous two “Gallery” showcases at Portland Ballet.

With the college emphasizing civic engagement and creative partnerships, Kloppenberg proposed a deeper collaboration with Portland Ballet. “One of the goals of the college is an increase in off-campus partnerships and its desire to thrust the performing arts forward,” she said, adding that the college’s new capital campaign includes a new performing arts space. “This is a first step in what we hope can be an ongoing collaboration with Portland Ballet.”

Nell Shipman, Portland Ballet’s artistic director, called the collaboration and the opportunity to work with Yanowsky “a truly thrilling experience” for dancers and a treat for audiences, and it satisfies the dance company’s goal of working with other artists. “Portland Ballet has a long history of collaboration with other performing arts groups in southern Maine and across our region,” she said. “Working with Yury and with Annie and her students from Colby is an exciting opportunity.”


WHERE: Portland Ballet, 517 Forest Ave., Portland
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-17
TICKETS & INFO: $30 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students with ID, $10 children;
ALSO: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, Strider Theater, Runnals Union Building, Colby College, Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, free

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