Verb Ballets to perform sizzling “Carmen” at Akron Civic Theatre

Arts / Article

Verb Ballets has strong Akron connections, which will be even more robust when the contemporary ballet group puts on choreographer Richard Dickinson’s “Carmen: Story of Passion” at the Akron Civic Theatre, a Knight Arts grantee.

The list is long for local involvement. Out of the nine-person company four are from Akron (Ryan De Alexandro, Ashley Cohen, Stepanie Krise and area favorite Brian Murphy). Verb Ballets appears every summer as part of the Heinz Poll Dance Festival. The group will dance its “Peter and the Wolf” at the Akron-Summit County Public Library in a closed performance. It has an outreach program to local high schools with strong arts programs. It has held master classes at The University of Akron. And, there’s much more.

This go-around in town Verb Ballets will put on a special dance version of the classic Georges Bizet opera, “Carmen.” Utilizing Bizet’s famous music for percussion and string, in an arrangement by Rodion Shchedrin, says Dr. Margaret Carlson, artistic director, the contemporary ballet will follow more closely the original novella by Prosper Merimee. Bring “no preconceptions of the opera,” Carlson warned, for “the story is told differently.”

The military presence of the story will get its due emphasis. The male dancers will be wearing something akin to military fatigues. Also, the switch in medium itself – from a story meant to be read through a retelling in music to yet another refashioning in dance terms has to cause things to change. Dance can show psychological states of mind in ways that music can’t for example, and that is what happens here, according to both Carlson and dancer Brian Murphy.

Scene from Verb Ballets’ “Carmen: Story of Passion.” Photo by Kolman Rosenberg Photography

Choreographer Dickinson wanted to do his version “in the round,” Carlson said. It will be performed with the audience sitting on the stage at the Akron Civic Theatre. In short, “the audience will be the setting” of the work. There are only 140 seats available in this format.

Dancers will at times be sitting among viewers who will form four-side arcs around a central open area for dancers. “They won’t just sit there,” Carlson noted. They’ll make noises and bring gesture (as I saw during rehearsal). “Everything is choreographed,” Carlson added.

When in the center, dancers have to be mindful that the audience can see them – from every angle and at all times, unlike a proscenium production. Being so close, viewers will see them sweat and hear them breathe as they come whizzing by in some fleet-footed dance moves. There’s “no way to hide,” as Carlson put it. That’ll make it even more fun to watch.

Instead of a four-act opera, this “Carmen: Story of Passion” will be a two-section ballet lasting approximately 45-50 minutes – a usual story-length work for something like this.

Brian Murphy and Kara Madden in scene from “Carmen: Story of Passion.” Photo by Kolman Rosenberg Photography

Verb Ballets will present “Carmen: Story of Passion” on Saturday, October 13 at 8 p.m. in the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St., Akron; 330-253-2488; Tickets are $25.