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Dancers don hats of choreographers

Published: Sunday, May 25 2008 12:12 a.m. MDT

When Ballet West presents "Innovations" at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center this week, three Ballet West dancers will premiere new works.

Principal Chris Ruud, soloist Peggy Dolkas and corps member Megan Furse will present their works along with James Canfield's "Equinoxe" and Susan Shields' "Grand Synthesis."

For Ruud, Dolkas and Furse, the challenges only helped develop their artistry. Ruud and Dolkas felt the first-time jitters, while Furse found it a little strange switching hats from dancer to choreographer.

"I have never choreographed before," said Ruud during an interview. "I have set works and taught class, but I have never choreographed. Was I suppose to sit in a dark room with headphones on listening to music and see the movement in my head? Or was I suppose to take the music to the studio and tell the dancers to do this and that?"

"I never knew just how much work it is to create a work," said Dolkas. "There is so much responsibility, and you have to remember what you did. It's pretty scary. I have developed a deeper respect for Ballet West's artistic staff because of this experience."

"Being a dancer has one head space and a choreographer has another," said Furse. "I had to make sure my thought process was in the right frame when I moved back and forth between those roles."

Ruud's work, "One," was inspired by his own experiences.

"I found myself thinking about the works I have danced in the past that I have enjoyed," said Ruud.

He pointed to Hans van Manen's "Solo" and William Forsythe's "Artifact II."

"They both used some of Bach's pertitas and sonatas. I loved the sheer passion of the violin. And when I hear that music, I want to make movement. I used portions of Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G Minor."

Another inspiration, for the contemporary ballet work, was his relationship with his wife, fellow Ballet West principal Christiana Bennett.

"I would be a liar if I said she isn't my muse," said Ruud. "The piece is about relationships. But it isn't just about husbands and wives. It's about best friends and family members as well."

Dolkas' "Yes, But How Do You Get There" was also inspired by music.

"I found this record of children's songs at a second-hand store and gave it to my boyfriend, D.J. Robatroid, who created a mix-tape of it," said Dolkas. "The music is fun and the dancing is contemporary."

At first, Dolkas was a bit uneasy telling her peers in Ballet West what she wanted.

"The dancers are wonderful," she said. "And they are truly professionals. So it made things easy for me. I would go in with ideas and they'd take them and run. It was very collaborative, and a great experience for me. I hope it was a good experience for them as well."

Furse said her classical, romantic ballet work "Le Chance de la Terre" is a celebration of life and love.

"It's the style I came up with but by no means the only style I love," she said. "But it is an expression of emotions of what it is to be alive."

While working on the piece, Furse, found, too, that the dancers helped shape the dancing.

"They each gave their own personalities into it and made the dance look even better," she said. "I knew who I wanted in the work. In fact, all the choreographers did. And there were times when we did have to compromise because they were involved in the other works, but it was a great experience for all of us."

The three choreographers submitted a proposal to the company administrative staff last year. Once the proposals were accepted, the work began.

"I was listening to XM radio when I heard a piano piece from a French composer," said Furse. "His name is Deodat Severac. He was a contemporary of Debussy, and his piano is just vibrant."

Furse found the pieces she wanted and took the title of her work from one of the Severac compositions.

"I am so grateful that Ballet West is letting us do this," said Ruud. "It has helped us understand more of our craft. I mean it's refreshing to be on the other side of the coin, not as a dancer, but as a choreographer."

"It also helped me develop confidence in myself," said Dolkas. "I feel that I can trust my sense of artistry. It's a great feeling."

If you go

What: Innovations, Ballet West

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South

When: Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; also Saturday, 2 p.m.

How much: $40

Phone: 355-2787, 888-451-2787


E-mail: scott@desnews.com

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