Latin Jazz Meets Ballet

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 20, 2011 | Go to article overview

Latin Jazz Meets Ballet


Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Eugene's Ballet Fantastique has made a name for itself over the past decade by collaborating with other artistic groups, especially local musicians. It has worked with the Eugene Symphony, the Oregon Mozart Players and Trio Voronezh.

When it start off its new season this weekend at the Hult Center, the chamber ballet company will be reaching farther afield - geographically speaking - than it ever has before.

In the second half of the show, Ballet Fantastique will be dancing to a live performance by Incendio, a Latin-jazz fusion guitar trio from Southern California.

"My mom had heard in an interview that they were going to be playing in the area last fall," explains Hannah Bontrager, the company's executive director. "She wasn't able to go, but she said, 'Hannah, you have to go. These people sound incredible!' "

Bontrager, who dances in the company herself, took her sister, Ashley Bontrager, and one of the other dancers from the troupe and headed for Cozmic Pizza, where Incendio was booked. "We were just expecting this little band," she said. "And we were absolutely blown away."

Before the night was over, Bontrager had introduced herself to the musicians and popped an unusual question: "Have you ever considered collaborating with a ballet company?"

The result goes on stage Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Hult Center's 498-seat Soreng Theater.

"Their music is very danceable and very virtuosic," Bontrager says. "We love the fusion of the styles they bring into their music. It's primarily Latin, but there is a Middle Eastern sound to some of their music. There's a jazz influence. Even a Celtic influence. My mom (that would be Ballet Fantastique's artistic director, Donna Marisa Bontrager) and I are always looking for something that is dynamic and compelling. If it has those two qualities and a strong sense of rhythm, then you can dance with it. It doesn't matter if it's Gershwin or Metallica."

You do, though, still have to rehearse, and the ballet dancers and musicians live more than 1,000 miles apart. …

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