A Moment with Victoria Rinaldi

Victoria Rinaldi and Valentina Kozlova have teamed up to present “American Dream” at the Orpheum Film & Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 11th. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Victoria about dancing, art, and the upcoming show. Talking to her made me really wish I could dance! – Maggie

What’s the driving force behind American Dream, was there a specific inspiration for this program?1391600_10152431049926581_1670946518490736431_n

Yes. I am working with a very talented, local male dancer (Justin Valentine), who in order to get to the professional level needed help, because none of the schools up here could really get him technically to the place he needed to be to compete. He approached me a year and a half ago to coach him, and did very well; he gained admittance to one of the most competitive summer intensives last year at American Ballet Theater, and he wanted to continue on. This year I wanted another set of eyes on him, so three days out of the week I coach him at the Red Barn in Hunter, and the other three days he goes to my dear friend Valentina Kozlova’s school in New York City. Valentina is a Russian defector; her students compete internationally, they are the absolute highest quality in their age group and most of them will go on to have major careers. They were all invited to participate in the Dance Open Festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which is a very prestigious invitation. So basically this program, is a combination of what they will be doing in Russia, and also the solos that they will be competing with internationally, so it’s like a big gala evening. Valentina picked the name, I said, what do you want to call this thing? And that’s what she wanted to call it.

Well that’s quite the story behind it!

Yes; now when Valentina defected she had the most impeccable Russian dance pedigree ever. She was first in her class at the Bolshoi, and she defected in Los Angeles when the Bolshoi was on tour in 1979, and her desire was to be able to dance a much wider repertoire of ballets. Another factor to this evening is the choreographer Margaret Sappington will be presenting a lot of her work. One of the reasons why Valentina wanted to defect  was to be able to dance a lot of different pieces, like what will be in the second act. Basically we’re presenting an entire evening of the best solos and pa de deuxs, the absolute classics in the first act, and then cutting edge choreography by one of our favorite choreographers in the second act. The evening will be closed with “For Ella,” which is a favorite piece of both of ours. We danced the premiere at the Joyce Theater in 1996 by Margaret Sappington who is also a local resident; she has a farm in East Durham.

Do you think ballet has changed since you started and over the years?

Absolutely. When I started my training, it was strictly classical ballet, and classical ballet is the root of all performance dance, even Hip Hop. If you are a classically trained ballet dancer, you tend to be able to pick up all different styles very easily. You need to be able to be a chameleon these days. It’s not enough just to have good technique, you need to be able to dance seamlessly between styles, and look like that is your main genre of dance. Nowadays when a choreographer comes in, he’s not only looking for superb technique, superb physical attributes, turns, jumps, and whatnot, he needs to be able to push the envelope further because everything’s been done, and everybody’s trying to outdo one another at this point. They want something new, they want something different, they want as many colors in their paintbox as they can get to paint with. You need to be able to give a choreographer what they want to work with – not only that, but to inspire them to create something spectacular for you.

Do you think that ballet is important for just dancers? What about all artists and musicians, or the general public?

Yes, I do think it’s important on several different levels. As far as art forms informing one another, there’s a huge history in art and ballet inspiring one another. Margo Sappington for instance has used Rodin’s sculptures as a basis for a very famous ballet she did; she also did another ballet based on Rousseau’s paintings. Of course (Edgar) Degas loved to paint ballet dancers. When I was at the Met, there was an Alexander Calder piece, also David Hockney did the costumes for Parade; they go hand in hand. Of course there’s plenty of ballets that are just lights and tights, but many times you need to be a multifaceted person, and have a complete understanding of other art forms to be a good ballet dancer. People don’t want to just see a paper doll up there that makes beautiful positions, you are a dancing actress. That’s something that a lot of dancers don’t realize until they’re into their career, they expect you to have something in your head other than counts.

Dance training is excellent for almost everyone. A kid that has dance training will carry themselves differently, and will have a discipline that will help them in almost every other instance in life. You have to be able to work well with others, to take direction, to take criticism;  you have to be able to have an aura that when you walk into a room you are something to be looked at, because that is something that you absolutely need on stage. These are all things that are good for you in other walks of life. Dance appreciation is a fabulous thing. Ballet is an artform, it’s been handed down from teacher to student, from coach to mentor to performer for centuries, and it should be protected. All of our classics should be protected, and some of what I’m presenting in the first act would be exactly the same as someone doing a Shakespeare soliloquy. That sounds very dry and boring, but these are pieces that are historically accurate and come from a very valuable place that should not be lost.

Bonus content:

David Hockney is a British artist, you see him in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He’s a quirky, modern artist. He did the costumes at the Met for the ballet Parade. The ballet Parade originally came from a statement on Europe after World War I. Ballets can be a commentary on social subjects, like the Green Table for instance, it can be as timely as it can be quite jarring.

It’s not all sugarplum fairies, I guess.

No it’s certainly not all sugarplum fairies, but that’s usually most people’s first exposure to ballet. There’s some that’s quite shocking, there’s some that’s quite thought provoking, it’s not all Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Those are very beautiful, those are the classics. Valentina and I will be presenting a Nutcracker this December. It’s usually everyone first exposure to dance, and I will be looking towards the community to do some of the roles in the first act. Some of the party guests, the parents, this would be very easy dancing that anyone could do, but they will have an opportunity to be on stage and be part of a cast of highly trained dancers in the second act. I’m hoping to get the word out there and to really make it something that people want to try. They may not like it and they won’t have to do it a second year, but everyone should have the opportunity to climb into costume and give it their best shot.

Reserve your seats to American Dream on our ticketing website today!

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