Pensacola, Florida
Thursday October 23rd 2014

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You’ve Been Thunderstruck

By Jennie McKeon

Ballet Pensacola is opening their current season, not with classical music and elaborate tutus, but with AC/DC, Queen and Michael Jackson.

“Thunderstruck,” was choreographed by Artistic Director, Richard Steinert and premiered three years ago.

“The audiences requested it,” Steinert said. “It’s nice to go back into the vault.”

Inside the ballet’s rehearsal room, dancers jump and leap around to the fast instrumental tune of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

“It’s a completely abstract ballet,” Steinert said. “There’s no message, just movement.”

Part of Steinert’s choreography inspiration was thunderstorms. Just like lightning, the dancers move fast across the room.

“As a kid I loved to be in a dark room and see the shadows that were created by lightning,” he said. “The opportunity to create that with humans is very exciting.”

Steinert said he can’t always pinpoint exactly where his choreography inspiration comes from.

“Sometimes I’ll just see something on the street and think ‘I want to do a ballet on that,’” he said.

As “Thunderstruck” gets released from the vault, so does its original opening performance, “Indelible Itinerary,” choreographed by Ballet Pensacola’s Ballet Mistress, Christine Duhon.

Just like “Thunderstruck,” the ballet is driven by music featuring Moby and Nine Inch Nails. In fact Duhon chose the music before she even developed the choreography.

“That’s how I do it, it usually lets me make my own decisions,” she said of her process.

“It’s very abstract in nature and a lot of fun to watch,” Duhon continued. “Each section has its own voice.”

Like a visual mixtape, “Indelible Itinerary,” is like several performances in one.

“There’s a cohesive thread throughout in the way it’s been constructed,” Steinert said. “But each piece is its own standalone moment.”

What’s exciting about Ballet Pensacola’s season opening is not just getting to hear Michael Jackson in a ballet, but watching the dancers that performed in “Thunderstruck” and “Indelible Itinerary” for the first time progress in their talent.

“You have the opportunity to not only watch dancers grow, but watch where they take the choreography,” Steinert said. “Watching them grow as people enhances their growth as an artist. It’s the same bodies, different emotions.”

Debi Marshall performed in both ballets when they originally premiered.

“She was in the academy and now she is dancing with the professional dancers,” Duhon said. “It’s neat to see how the work in the academy spills into the performances.”

As Marshall is lifted and thrown during rehearsal, a smile never leaves her face.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “When I hear the big ‘bang,’ I know I’m about to be in the air.”

Marshall is enthusiastic about dancing in “Thunderstruck” and “Indelible Itinerary” again. Just like Steinert said, she notes the ballets have changed over the years.

“It’s going to be exciting, especially for people who came last time,” she said. “It’s a new creation. So different, yet still the same.”

Into her fifth season at Ballet Pensacola, Kristen Springer is still surprised to see how a ballet changes with the company.

“It’s fun going back to ‘Thunderstruck,’” she said. “It’s amazing how just changing your partner makes a difference.”

It’s also fun to get to dance to more familiar, modern music.

“I love having a change,” Springer said. “Some ballet companies do strictly classical or strictly modern. That’s what makes this ballet fun—it has pieces of music the audiences love.”

“It makes it easier. You already know the music, you know the tempo and the beats that are coming,” said Kyle Schlaefer.

For those that haven’t seen “Thunderstruck” and “Indelible Itinerary,” the performances will change your perceptions of the ballet.

“I’m not the first to coin the phrase, but this is not your grandmother’s ballet,” Steinert said. “This performance is contemporary, edgy and sexy without pushing the lines of vulgarity.”

Schlaefer will be making his Ballet Pensacola debut with the season opener. When the Texas native was looking to join a company, it was “Thunderstruck” that lead him to Pensacola.

“It was one of my decision makers,” Schlaefer said of the ballet. “It was a rush getting me in time to start the season, but it’s going to be a great, fun show.”

“People are going to enjoy the show,” Springer said. “There’s a lot going on onstage and the music is awesome.”

THUNDERSTRUCK & INDELIBLE ITINERARY
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., October 5 and October 6
WHERE: Pensacola Cultural Center, 400 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $18-$30
DETAILS: 432-9546 or balletpensacola.com