Duke University + American Ballet Theatre: A Partnership

This article was originally published on the Duke Performances blog

In the world we’d planned for, the American Ballet Theatre Main Company would have, as of today, just completed their run of five performances of the romantic masterwork Giselle at the Durham Performing Arts Center. This would have been the company’s first visit to North Carolina in more than 50 years, and included a special matinee performance for 1,700+ Durham Public Schools students.

While we mourn the “would-haves,” we urgently shift our focus to the right-now: to the severity of the COVID-19 situation locally, nationally, and internationally, and to its ripple effects within our artist and audience communities. Through our site, social media channels and Spotify, and e-blasts, Duke Performances will continue to share ways to give support and solidarity to relief efforts, especially within Durham artist networks. Stay tuned, too, for some news from us about ways we’ll keep our programming going through the virtual proscenium (or, of course, the non-proscenium).

Simultaneously, we’ll use this time to expand upon our blog platform to offer reflections on and deeper dives into our recent programming — particularly our artist residency programs — as well as explorations into DP’s archives and inner workings.

To guide us here, I am partly inspired and encouraged by the Houston, TX Mayor’s Office’s recent invocation of the improvisatory principles of composer and sonic experimentalist Pauline Oliveros (highlighted in a tweet last week by Tone Glow Records’ Joshua Minsoo Kim).

Everybody improvises their way through every day. And so I do that with music.

Pauline Oliveros, originally from a 2011 interview with Anita Malhotra

We, like you, are improvising, as we must do as we live through unforeseen times. As we shift our engagements, for the time being, to the virtual realm, we hope you’ll entrust us in the same way you would when taking a seat, or a spot, at one of our in-person performances. More than anything, we want to continue engagement with performance in a way that is rooted in, and responsive to, the communities in which we live and work.

For now, we wanted to share with you this short video that celebrates the scope of Duke’s three-year partnership with American Ballet Theatre as it has taken shape thus far. (The partnership runs through spring 2021.) And while we won’t see ABT on campus or in Durham again this spring, the work of this expansive collaboration continues toward its culminating cluster of residencies, performances, and public educational engagements.

Video produced and edited by Saleem Reshamwala & John Laww of KidEthnic.

This film was shot and edited beautifully by Saleem Reshamwala and John Laww of KidEthnic. The KidEthnic team works regularly with all of us at Duke Performances to create short documentaries and electronic press kits expressing the range of work done at Duke and in Durham by visiting artists. We’re very excited to share more of their work through this platform in the coming weeks.

Michaela Dwyer is Community Engagement Coordinator at Duke Performances & the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts.

Header photo of American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers, rehearsing new work by Stefanie Batten Bland in February 2020, by Alex Boerner.