Presented by ballet tech cincinnati at the Aronoff Center, the Gala offers a powerhouse pack of extraordinary dancers hand-picked from top companies from around the country and beyond. Look for world premieres, including one representing dancer Darius Crenshaw’s professional choreographic debut.
Crenshaw says he’s been “freelancing everywhere” as of late and is excited to be making both his choreographic and dancing debut at this year’s Gala. If Crenshaw feels any pressure about performing “double duty,” it wasn’t evident speaking with him by phone from his rehearsal in Pennsylvania.
Born in Detroit and raised in a family of musicians in Cincinnati, the School for Creative and Performing Arts grad most recently performed here in The Color Purple with the Broadway touring company. He’s also been a company member of Cincinnati Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet and New York City Ballet, where he felt his musical upbringing helped him, particularly with George Balanchine’s works known for demanding strong musicality.
“I’ve loved music all my life,” he says. “Growing up and being around music — my mother being a pianist, my brother being a bass player and aunts and uncles and cousins playing instruments — it was hard not to notice different instruments and music.”
He says his brother jokes with him, claiming Crenshaw is “a musician who doesn’t play an instrument.” But this isn’t entirely true: Crenshaw is a singer and is learning to play acoustic guitar.
His professional choreographic debut, “Portrait,” is a pas de deux he’ll perform with Cincinnati Ballet Principal Dancer Janessa Touchet. An electric bass guitar piece from the late Jaco Pastorius sets the tone for Crenshaw’s short work, which he describes as a neoclassical contemporary ballet with a minimalist approach.
He says he tried to take choreographic cues from the music, as Balanchine often did.
“I had the idea to reference the ebb and flow of emotions in a relationship because of the sounds and the different moods I heard in the music,” he says.
Mood-wise, the music and the movement dovetail.
“There are moments when the mood seems very romantic and upbeat and then there are times when the notes get dissonant,” Crenshaw says, “so that indicates to me a struggle or a tension. And every relationship has that.”
On a lighter note, Crenshaw will perform a second pas de deux with Touchet, “Flames of Paris.” He sums it up as “very classical, very flashy, very showy — and a lot of fun!”
Originally hailing from Cuba, Cincinnati Ballet Principal Dancer Cervilio Miguel Amador defected to the U.S. nearly seven years ago while on tour in Daytona Beach with the National Ballet of Cuba.
In this, his second Gala appearance, Amador will perform the highly demanding and technical solo variations of the pas de deux from the classical Diana and Acteon. He describes dancing in this Gala as a great opportunity to see what else is going on around the ballet world and to compare his own dancing against others’.
“For us, the dancers, it’s great because we get to work with all these other dancers we don’t know,” he says. “And for the audience it’s great because they have everything in one opportunity: They have representation of different companies and different countries and dancers.”
This Gala presents some special situations for Amador. He’s more than halfway to full recovery from recent shoulder surgery and explains he’s still under limitations. This means no partnering, no “crazy contemporary” or anything where he might put weight on the shoulder. He’s delighted to be performing again after nearly three months, the longest time he’d gone in his life without dancing. Still, he found plenty to do during his time off, visiting new restaurants and nightclubs, and exploring more of the city.
“I’ve learned so much more about Cincinnati and I love it even more,” he says.
Speaking of time passing, it’s been nearly seven years since Amador’s parents last saw him dance live. He says he’s very excited, but also nervous.
“This is the first time they have ever been outside Cuba, and this is like a gift for me and for them,” he says. “This Gala is a great opportunity to dance, but honestly, why I wanted to do it so bad was because of my parents. So with physical therapy every day, I’ve been, like, pushing and pushing to make it work.”
GALA OF INTERNATIONAL DANCE STARS takes place Saturday at the Aronoff Center for the Arts downtown. Go here for tickets and venue details.