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By Roy C. Dicks
The company, under director Robert Weiss, turns 15.
Lara O’Brien and Margaret Severin-Hansen (kneeling) in Weiss’ Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Chris Schonwalder, Courtesy CB.
In 1999, to open Carolina Ballet’s second season, founding artistic director Robert Weiss mounted “An Evening Direct from New York,” pulling from the repertoire he knew—that of New York City Ballet, where he danced for 16 years. When Carolina Ballet opens its 15th-anniversary season on September 13, the company will perform “An Evening of Robert Weiss,” both honoring him and reflecting his vision for the repertoire. The selections will include Weiss’ 46th new work for the Raleigh, NC—based company, one of the largest in the South.
Weiss’ works are continually inventive but never strive for flashy effect. “It’s trusting the beauty, harmony, and the spirituality of the principles [of classical ballet],” he says. Weiss applies these principles to both plotless works and his story ballets, which he tailors to fit his 34-member company. His lyrical creations are balanced by principal guest choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s more dramatic, theatrical pieces. (She will have her own “Evening” celebrating her choreography in February.)
The company has presented 92 premieres by 12 choreographers since its inception. Eight of his dancers have been with the company from the beginning, including his wife, Melissa Podcasy (see “Transitions”). Said another founding principal, Lilyan Vigo Ellis, in these pages, “Once I’m onstage here, it’s my paradise. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Where does Weiss hope to take Carolina Ballet from here? He is aiming for more stability. “I’d like to get live music back,” he says. “I’d like to pay the dancers a living wage, and I’d like to tour the company to get the dancers the recognition they deserve.”
In the meantime, he will continue to produce his sincere, deeply felt choreography. Says Weiss, “Ballet has to have a context and a subtext; without the latter, it’s not worth watching.”