R-Rated Ballet to Premiere at MSUM

IMAGE COURTESY | THE GUARDIAN Domenico di Michelino’s famous depiction of Dante Alighieri.
Domenico di Michelino’s famous depiction of Dante Alighieri.

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.


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