Aspen Santa Fe Ballet rehearses 'Over Glow'

Members of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet practices 'Over Glow,' a newly commissioned work by Jorma Elo, making its premiere July 12 at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. (BY Heather Rousseau / July 8, 2011)

I love watching rehearsals, whether they be for dance concerts, dinner theater shows, neighborhood musicals or —during these early summer days — marching drum and bugle corps performances. Recent weeks have brought me the opportunity to sample and savor all of the above.

No matter what the discipline, there is nothing phony about a rehearsal. The effort is real and raw, the flubs are painful and the moment of mastery is exhilarating.

Rehearsals give you an inside view of art, something you never experience in a polished presentation. In dance, especially, you see the performers up close, and in practice clothes that reveals every straining muscle and well-meant attempt at grace.

The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia is a terrific place to watch these behind-the-scenes rehearsals, or to take in the lecture/demonstrations that put all that effort into context. It's also the best place to see new dances in the making.


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The Finnish-born Jorma Elo, considered one of the hottest choreographers working today, was hard at work recently rehearsing his latest work, commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation. Since 2005, this former hockey goalie has served as resident choreographer for the Boston Ballet. Now in demand by ballet directors the world over, Elo was recently awarded the Prix Benoir de la Danse, the equivalent of the movie world's Academy Award.

Elo's new creation, "Over Glow," is a pure movement piece that reminded this writer of the late Choo-San Goh's brilliant contemporary works. It will be danced by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at Wolf Trap's Filene Center this coming Tuesday, July 12. The company then travels to the mecca of modern dance, Jacobs Pillow, for a longer engagement, Aug. 17-21.

Terrence Jones, president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation is proud of this collaborative process between Wolf Trap and the world's choreographers. "We've completed 70 commissions since 1996, and 20 of them have been in dance. This represents a world of possibility for Elo and Wolf Trap's other 2011 grantee, Ronald K. Brown."

Ronald K. Brown's Evidence Dance Company will perform its premiere of "On Earth Together" at Wolf Trap Aug. 2; three weeks later, Ballet West dances yet another new work by local artist Susan Shields.

Wolf Trap also produces the creative site-specific "Face of America" series, filmed on location at various National Parks around the country. Upcoming dance events are scheduled for the Everglades and the Pacific Northwest, and in 2016 there will be a huge retrospective that will mark the centennial of the national parks system.

So, why drive to Virginia to see a dance concert? Maybe because Wolf Trap's Filene Center is the only outdoor venue for classical dance within 100 miles or more. Or maybe because it's the only national park that is dedicated to the performing arts.

At just four dollars for a lawn seat or $25 to $40 for in-house seating, the tickets are certainly reasonable. Getting there can also be a breeze, since you can take the Metro down from Silver Spring.

And don't forget to bring your favorite food and beverages (including a bottle of wine) to enjoy in a picnic area before the performance, or even on the lawn while watching the show.

The Golden Dragon Acrobats from China will perform dance acrobatics at Wolf Trap Sunday, July 24 at 8 p.m. Maryland Youth Ballet Monumental Brass Quintet, a fantastic dance adventure connecting instruments to each other and the objects surrounding them, will perform at Wolf Trap Theatre-in-the Woods Saturday, July 30 at 3 p.m. As a bonus to dance fans, Wolf Trap is offering a 20% discount for subscriptions to the 2011 summer dance season.

Dance critic Lisa Traiger will lead a discussion prior to the Aspen Santa Fe performance at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, master dance classes will be held at Wolf Trap's Filene Center Rehearsal Hall (when a dance company is in residency) Tuesday mornings, at 10:30 a.m. Participants pay $15; an observer $7 (cash preferred). Deadline is the day before; call 800-955-5566.

For all Wolf Trap shows (including children's programs in the Theatre-in-the-Woods), go to http://www.wolftrap.org.

Dancing through sands of time

This weekend, the Caracalla Dance Theatre brings "Zayed and the Dream" to the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. The work follows the journey of seven horsemen as they travel through the sands of time in search of the "destined one" who will engrave a vision on the deserts of Arabia.

This spectacle features over 100 artists and guest dance performers from China, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and countries of the former Soviet Union. Performances are this Friday and Saturday, July 15 and 16, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $45 to $125, and are available by calling toll free 800-444-1324 or going to http://www.kennedy-center.org.