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Center Stage

‘Prelude’ brings ballet to Hoyt Sherman


Ballet Des Moines brings “Prelude: A Triple Bill” to Hoyt Sherman Place on Friday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $42.50 for adults and $27.50 for children and students.

Movement comes to the metro in a big way this month with the premiere of “Prelude: A Triple Bill,” the new performance from Ballet Des Moines. Featuring six professional dancers, “Prelude” presents three pieces of original choreography from Ballet Des Moines artistic director Serkan Usta, ballet mistress Lori Grooters and guest choreographer Ma Cong.

Usta said he sees “Prelude” as a way to reintroduce ballet to the residents of Des Moines, an element of local culture that has been lacking since the dissolution of Ballet Iowa in the late ’90s.                

“They have a nice opera. They have the symphony. They have a nice Art Center. But ballet, that movement — it’s missing,” he said.                

Unlike more traditional productions like “Swan Lake” or “The Nutcracker,” “Prelude” showcases neo-classical and contemporary movement in the triple bill format, acting as a sampler of different kinds of dance and motion.                


“The cool thing about this (repertory) is that we’re all different,” Grooters said. “There’s no way my brain could work like Ma’s and choreograph something like that. And Serkan has his way of movement, too.”               

Grooters, who dances in both Ma’s and her husband Usta’s offerings, also put together a piece for “Prelude” called “Nesting.” Inspired by the flight of birds, “Nesting” uses music to complement its concept, including an arrangement of the “Angry Birds” theme. Usta’s ballet, “Awakenings,” was suggested by the movie of the same name starring Robert DeNiro, while Cong’s piece, “Angeli,” uses the idea of angels visiting Earth to inspire modern-contemporary movement.                

Cong, resident choreographer and principal dancer for the Tulsa Ballet in Oklahoma, is visiting Des Moines to contribute to “Prelude.” He’s known Usta since they danced together in Tulsa 14 years ago.               

“He’s a very dear friend of mine, and I’m very excited for him to start his new company. It’s been his dream,” he said.                

“Awakenings,” Usta’s ballet, gives some indication as to what audiences can expect from “Prelude.” It’s set after hours in a mental institution after the doctors have all gone home. The formall-catatonic patients spring to life when no one’s watching (which Usta likened to the personified figurines in the Pixar movie “Toy Story”). Liberated from their restraints and straightjackets, they move in ways both jerky and fluid, erratic motions manifesting externally what the patients have been holding in all day.              

Grooters said the psychology of a ballet like “Awakenings” is just as important as the choreography.                

“It’s exercising your brain, along with your body,” she said. “That’s the cool thing about dance. Your overall body has to work together.”                

Usta said he is eager to receive audience feedback on “Prelude,” whether positive or negative, as it helps him determine how best to serve the community’s interest regarding future productions. He believes Des Moines needs a “powerful ballet company,” and he’s doing his best to provide one.               

“As long as we have the energy, and as long we feel there’s an audience that demands cool stuff, we’ll do it,” Usta said. CV

Editor’s Note: Looking for Art Pimp? It’s running one week later than usual this month. Find it in the next issue of Cityview, Oct. 25.

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