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Sacramento Ballet hosts Capital Choreography Competition

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Lean bodies, skin-tight clothes and some of the most graceful dancers in Sacramento are only a few of the highlights of this Friday’s Capital Choreography Competition at the Crest Theatre.

Three choreographers — Yannis Adoniou, Darrell Grand Moultrie and Melissa Barak — will showcase their choreographing talents and compete against one another at the second annual Capital Choreography competition hosted by the Sacramento Ballet on Oct. 15 and 22.

“We try not to make it about the competition,” Sacramento Ballet Artistic Director Ron Cunningham said. “We try to make it about them winning an award for having the best choreographed ballet, but everyone’s a winner for having gone through the process.”

The catch: Each choreographer will only have between 28 and 30 hours in total to rehearse their ballets with a set of dancers from the Sacramento Ballet company who they met for the first time last week.

Barak just flew into town last Tuesday after performing in New York and has been practicing five to six hours a day since then.

“It’s my job as a choreographer to make the music come alive and make it a visual experience as you’re listening to it,” she said.

According to Barak, each of her dancers will be wearing the same costume.

“The women will be wearing a leotard outfit with a patched skirt and the men will be wearing tights,” Barak said. “It’s going to be pretty basic as time and the budget are tight.”

She has no idea what the other choreographers are doing, but her goal is to make a good piece for herself and for her own growth.

“In my piece you can expect to see a very strong classical ballet base, but it’s not too conventional — a bit more modern and contemporary, not your quintessential ballet,” Barak said.“So the technique of ballet is just the underlying foundation.”

Her favorite part about working with the Sacramento Ballet is that they are very welcoming and eager to be working with someone new and to be a part of a new ballet.

One of those eager dancers is Stefan Calka, who participated in the last Capital Choreography Competition and has been with the Sacramento Ballet for seven years.

“My favorite part of this competition is the diversity and each piece being something in and of itself,” Calka said. “Each of the pieces derives its personality from the choreographers, so it’s cool to go from one piece to the next and have each be something completely different.”

According to Cunningham, there will be a grand prize awarded by the judges and a People’s Choice awarded by the audience.

“The judging is pretty subjective,” Cunningham said. “Some of the judges have been dancers, are dancers, or teach dance. Some of them are theater people. So in any case they have theater or dance backgrounds, but there’s no rubric or anything.”

The People’s Choice will be determined by the audience, who will vote with plastic chips. At the end of the three performances, the master and mistress of ceremonies will make a call for the audience to vote with their chips for either Adoniou, Moultrie or Barak, and people will go down each aisle with bags designated for each choreographer.

Each bag will be quickly weighed and the winner will be chosen based on the weight of each bag.

Last year, the audience chose a different winner than the panel of judges, so it will be interesting to see what happens this year, Cunningham said.

Tickets cost between $20 and $35.

To purchase tickets, call the Sacramento Ballet Box Office at (916) 552-5800 ext. 2, or click here.

Tickets may also be purchased at the Crest Theatre.

The Crest Theatre is located at 1013 K St. 


Photos courtesy of Steven Chea.

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