With its upcoming world premiere, James Sewell Ballet will shatter all stereotypes of what ballet is. There are no pink tutus or frills and lace here. No, in bringing Dante’s “Inferno” to life in ballet form, this company will premier this literary work onstage with the aid of electronic special effects, an unexpected repertoire of music and other aspects leading it to be labeled Rated R.
As part of the Cheryl Nelson Lossett Performing Arts Series at Minnesota State University Moorhead, this ballet is presented as the season closer for the arts series that seeks to bring culturally and artistically diverse performances to the area.
But what leads a seemingly pleasant event like the ballet to be Rated R? For starters, its music. Music from Nine Inch Nails and Pink Floyd is slung alongside composers like Bach in this production, and the lyrics often employ the use of certain words that start with certain letters, such as F.
There are also some other aspects of this production that potential attendees might want to be forewarned about. A rape scene is present in this show, as is a male performer with a long, snakelike attachment on the groin area of his costume. For Rebecca Sundet-Schoenwald, managing director of this arts series, she believes this ballet will certainly be striking, but it was only recently she learned of these inclusions, prompting her to make a few publicity changes.
“Since then, I’ve changed my Forum ads, I’ve changed the ads in the High Plains Reader to say ‘Rated R for adult content,'” she said, “but there’s a bunch of stuff out there that doesn’t have that on there and so we’ll find out. People may ask for refunds, they may leave in a huff, but that’s just the way it is.”
MSUM and James Sewell Ballet have honed a relationship over the past decade through campus performances, master classes and mobility development exercises in community care facilities. However, this performance will not be accompanied by any of that, though the company will present a few scenes to area high school students prior to the premiere. Preparing for this premiere has been ongoing, and the company will use all the time they have to ready themselves for the Saturday performance.
“They’re so busy trying to get this production finished, and because they’ve never staged it before, there’s all these technical issues, because this is multimedia production too,” Sundet-Schoenwald said. “It’s got surround-sound, it’s got all this electronic imagery that they’re using, so it’s got all these special effects.”
All of this hard work should pay off, and Sundet-Schoenwald anticipates that this ballet will be one that will not be soon forgotten.
“It’s going to be very interesting, it’s going to be very cool.”
The James Sewell Ballet’s world premiere of Dante’s “Inferno” is at 7:30 p.m. on Mar. 8 in MSUM’s Hansen Theatre. In correlation with the premiere, a reception and art exhibit at 5 p.m. on Mar. 6 at MSUM’s White Hall and Fox Recital Hall will showcase students’ visions of hell. A heaven-and-hell-inspired piano recital by guest performer Jihye Chang will also occur. These related events are free. Tickets for the main event are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors/MSUM alumni, $12 for non-MSUM students and are available by phone at 218-477-2271 or mnstate.edu/perform.