Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 4, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Ballet Arizona


  • A conversation with Ib Anderson, artistic director of Ballet Arizona. He’ll discuss the new production, "Play" and the Ballet’s financial situation.
Guests:
  • Ib Andersen - Ballet Arizona Director
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: ballet, Ballet Arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
"Ballet Arizona" will be performing at the Kennedy Center this season. The company will also perform an original "Local" production this month. I'll talk to the artistic director of "Ballet Arizona," but first, Mike Sauceda tells us about the company's latest production.
Mike Sauceda:
Dancers from "Ballet Arizona" getting ready to form a play, the latest production is a full-length ballet by the artistic director, Ib Andersen. One of the performers in the play explain what people can expect from the ballet "Play."

Ilir Shtylla:
It is a full-length ballet. I believe an hour and a half. It has so many different sections to it, I think people, when they come to see it, they will get all kinds of different flavors to it. Not just one in particular classic ballet, neo classical, contemporary maybe a little bit to it, very dramatic lyrical, and in the end, there is a whole ensemble, the whole company does the finale, which it's crazy, the music goes so fast and it's like you got, I don't know, maybe 30 dancers on stage or something like that dancing at the same time. So it's exciting.

Mike Sauceda:
He hopes to get on the floor with the other dancers soon. He is recovering from an injury. He is coming up on his seventh year with the ballet. Originally from Albania, he says he has stayed with "Ballet Arizona" because he likes the company.

Ilir Shtylla:
I do like it. There is a lot of good things happening here from a dancer's point of view. It is a smaller company so we get to dance a lot of good stuff. We work a lot, compared to other bigger companies. I guess you will be a little bit more difficult. But here, sometimes you get to do great stuff, and that's how sometimes you get to do just -- just dancing.

Mike Sauceda:
He says dancers enjoy working with artistic director Andersen.

Ilir Shtylla:
It is good because you get more of that training, like what he went through and he's obviously gotten, working when he first moved to the states, I don't know how many years ago that was, but it's good to see exactly what he was taught and like how he was explained all these roles that he did when he was a principal with the New York City Ballet.

Mike Sauceda:
The production play is described in the publicity piece at "drop dead sexy".

Ilir Shtylla:
It is drop said sexy, yes, but I hope nobody will literally drop dead, but it is a very good piece, yeah.

Ted Simons:
Joining me now is "Ballet Arizona" Artistic Director Ib Andersen. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us. We will talk about the drop dead sexy piece in a minute, but I have to ask you, you've been with "Ballet Arizona" for 10 years. What brought you out here?

Ib Andersen:
Change. I actually was here two years before I got the job. So I was freelancing then, and I ended up actually liking Arizona, maybe mostly the blue sky.

Ted Simons:
Yeah.

Ib Andersen:
So I applied for directorship and I got it.

Ted Simons:
When you applied, were you looking -- were your expectations here and after 10 years, have they stayed here or are they moving over here a little bit?

Ib Andersen:
Well, when I started, you know, I mean, the company was -- a week after I started, the company basically was ready to fold if we didn't raise like $450,000 in 30 days. Which we ended up doing. So I started with a very difficult situation, and it's been, you know, we've been building year after year, brick by brick. I mean, the company now is, the budget is more than twice what it was and, I mean, everything is much more.

Ted Simons:
When you came on board, was there a culture you needed to change? Was there a mindset? What did you bring?

Ib Andersen:
No, the company is -- next year it is going to be 25 years, which is nothing in terms of a ballet company. Old companies, we're talking about maybe 250 years. So 25 years, it's nothing. And it takes, you know, in the 10 years I've been here, it takes a long time to make a significant stamp. You can change things very fast, but to really do what you need to do, I mean, I've only -- well, scratched more than the surface, but maybe not so much more.

Ted Simons:
What would you like to see? What is a goal, a relatively short-term goal that you still need to reach?

Ib Andersen:
Well, the bigger company, more performances, all the shows with live music. And the end, because it is about audience building, but Arizona, I mean, Phoenix is a huge city, you know, so it should be possible here. It's just everything in Arizona is sort of pioneering work because it is such a young state. You don't have that, like the east coast, where the cities are -- so it's different environment.

Ted Simons:
Has to be a challenge, isn't it?

Ib Andersen:
Yeah, but it's a good challenge because it's sort of what you do, there's no real preconceived ideas of how it should be done, so you will have -- you have great freedom here.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, the production of "Play," which we saw a little bit there in the piece, at least the rehearsals and practice and those sorts of things, talk about the dynamics here. What are we looking at? Drop dead sexy, we understand that to a certain degree, what does that mean in the ballet world?

Ib Andersen:
Well, this ballet, you could see it is in seven sections and each section is very different than the previous. And some of them you would maybe say is quite sexy because it's -- it is based on "Play," on the word play, so of many different elements. So what can I say about it, ballet, you know, you can do things with ballet that you can't really do with anything else. It's a different medium. It's making music visible. I mean music, with music you can do anything and it can express things you cannot put into words. That's how ballet is. Poetry.

Ted Simons:
People that are watching that say it sounds interesting but I never seem to understand ballet, what would you tell them?

Ib Andersen:
There is nothing for you to understand just sit there and open your eyes and what you get is what you get. And if you see it a second time, you will get more. Third time more. First time, it's nothing, it's like listening to music, you might like it, you might not but you don't really -- you don't need to have an education to see it.

Ted Simons:
Interesting.

Ib Andersen:
I mean, it's like if you watch the Grand Canyon, you don't need to be educated to watch Grand Canyon. And human bodies, at least dancers, for a lot of them, they are beautiful to watch. You don't need to have an education to watch bodies. You have music and something and you -- yeah.

Ted Simons:
So you sit there, and if it's okay, if you want to watch that particular dancer do that particular thing, knowing that the expert over here might be watching a whole different thing, giving something else completely, as long as you're getting that out of it, good enough.

Ib Andersen:
There are no rules. There's no rules. It's not like you need to understand something that are there, and if you don't understand it, then so what.

Ted Simons:
Classical, you mentioned music, classical music, what it has gone through, very old, very traditional. But we've gone through certain things, jazz, different art forms. Is ballet transitioning? Are there new things in ballet all the time, avant-garde, in what's going on there?

Ib Andersen:
I mean, what is avant-garde? I think there are new ways of doing things that have already been done. Like, if you have words, it is how you put the words together that all the sudden make it sound new. The words are still the words they were 400 years ago, same thing with ballet, it is how you put it together that makes it new. I don't believe there is anything new, there is new -- I mean, that's sort of how it is. New combinations that makes it seem like you've never seen it before.

Ted Simons:
It sounds -- again the production is "Play." Thank you for being here.

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