DANCING BALANCHINE AND KYLIAN: AN INTERVIEW WITH SOLOIST LAUREN STRONGIN

-by Stephanie Brown, Public Relations Intern

Houston Ballet is exploring the diverse artistic genius of George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Jiří Kylián in its program Modern Masters, currently running now through June 1st. The imaginative and powerful choreography of these three masters can be described as immensely challenging, yet a pure joy and honor to perform.

Artists of Houston Ballet - The Four Temperaments

Photograph from The Four Temperaments, Choreography by George Balanchine, © The George Balanchine Trust. Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet (Lauren Strongin [right]). Photo by Amitava Sarkar

The dreams of Soloist Lauren Strongin are finally coming true; she will be dancing in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. We spoke with Lauren to find out what she loves about these two choreographers, as well as the challenges and triumphs she has faced in her journey of preparing for Modern Masters.

BW_Lauren Strongin_Amitava Sarkar

Soloist Lauren Strongin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Houston Ballet:  Explain to us the art of dancing a George Balanchine piece. How does Balanchine stand out from other choreographers?

Lauren Strongin:  Balanchine was a revolutionary. His style permeates many contemporary choreographers work. Even within the Modern Masters program, his influence on Kylián and Forsythe is noticeable. His musicality and requirement for extreme precision always pushes me. There is always a sense of accomplishment after performing one of his works.

Houston Ballet:  Tell us about your solo in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. What are some challenges you have faced in dancing this piece?

Lauren StronginThe Four Temperaments is a ballet I remember seeing while in school in Stuttgart, Germany. I was in awe of the use of modern movements incorporated into a seamless non-narrative. I loved the way the body was used as a means of expression rather than relying on facial emotion or pantomime techniques to get his vision across. It’s a classic Balanchine that I am honored to perform not one, but two roles in. It’s a ballet I’ve always hoped to dance.

The Four Temp Artists of Houston

Photograph from The Four Temperaments, Choreography by George Balanchine, © The George Balanchine Trust. Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo by Amitava Sarkar

It’s sexy in an understated way. There is a confidence that is built into the choreography. The challenge in dancing a Balanchine ballet is to let the movement and musicality drive the emotional intent. His works are physically very revealing and require pure use of technique and precision. His ballets always make me feel like I am improving on myself. This experience working with Judith Fugate, who has staged The Four Temperaments for Houston Ballet, has also been such a treasure, that I feel confident and excited to be a part of this ballet.

Petite Mort Gonzalez and Chan

Ballet: Petite Mort; Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Houston Ballet:  Jiří Kylián is another great choreographer honored in Modern Masters. Explain to us what you have learned from Kylián’s choreography and how his style differs from other ballets.

Lauren Strongin: Kylián to me is genius. His use of movement is so fluid and natural. I find his work to be very thoughtful and genuine. He is confident in what he is trying to say and therefore does not over decorate or add unnecessary movements to fill in his work. He is a true original, and I am always honored to dance in his ballets. It seems that his works have a living quality to them, as if they have a soul.

Houston Ballet:  You are performing a pas de deux in Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. I understand this is a very sensual piece; how does it make you feel and what do you do to prepare for this role?

Lauren Strongin:  Petite Mort is a ballet I had always hoped to dance at some point in my career. I’m thrilled to have the chance, now, to be a part of it. It’s also an honor to be coached once more by Ros Anderson. She’s such an expert on Kylián’s work and always makes me feel very confident and secure in the movement.

It is a very sensual ballet and to me really explores individual personal relationships between couples. Each couple is expressing a different part of a partnership. It’s a ballet that makes the audience and dancers want to focus on every detail, so as not to miss a moment. It’s a true masterpiece.

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Houston Ballet continues its performances of Modern Masters through Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm at Wortham Theater Center.  For tickets and more information, visit:  https://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/Modern_Masters/

 

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