Oregon Ballet Theatre Presents Nicolo Fonte’s Beautiful Decay
Oregon Ballet Theatre is thrilled to present Beautiful Decay a company premiere from newly named resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte, featuring guest artists Gregg Bielemeier and Susan Banyas in a full evening work which explores the onslaught of time and the changes that come with it. With this multigenerational cast, Fonte juxtaposes the technical prowess and daring athleticism for which he is so well-known, against the stark reality that with age comes a more fragile state, one that resonates with the power and beauty of distant youth.
Beautiful Decay marks Fonte’s 7th production for the company beginning with Bolero in 2008. Since then Portland audiences have been treated to Fonte’s talent with such works as Petrouchka, Left Unsaid, and last season’s unforgettable collaboration with Pink Martini, Never Stop Falling (In Love). It was with great pleasure that Oregon Ballet Theatre recently announced that Fonte would be joining the company as resident choreographer effective with its 2016-2017 season.
Fonte’s choreography has been frequently noted by critics to be grounded in personal reflection. Inspiration for Beautiful Decay came during a visit to the Oregon Historical Society to see an exhibit by artist Mark Golebiowski of 3-d photographs featuring dead, yet very vibrant exotic flowers. “These flowers were so full of movement,” Fonte observes, “and retained such a potent identity and sense of ‘self,’ that the beauty evident in the decay was to me both noble and touching. There was still this sense of identity: ‘I am still present!’ And I thought, ‘What a perfect metaphor for a performer.’”
To develop his theme of diminishing prowess over time and identity, Fonte decided to use a multigenerational cast. Portland dance icons Gregg Bielemeier and Susan Banyas join the artists of Oregon Ballet Theatre performing side by side - fully integrated into the work. This connection can feel uncomfortable as it points up the obvious limitations which aging presents to the body, particularly a dancers’ body, and this is why the piece is so compelling. “Looking time in the face takes courage,” Banyas says. “When you start to lose a parent, or family members, or your own body starts to change -- radically, sometimes -- you have to be willing to enter into that experience rather than resist it. We’re prompted constantly in this culture to feel bad about such things. To drop all that nonsense and look directly at the mystery we’re entering into is difficult. That’s why I think this is such a courageous work.”
Courage aside, Fonte is never one to hit his audience over the head with an agenda – Beautiful Decay is thrillingly entertaining, and builds on the OBT dancers’ technical virtuosity as much as their abilities to emotionally connect with the audience. This season in particular has seen the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre rise to new heights with performances of the venerable Napoli (3rd Act) last fall and the recent triumph of Romeo & Juliet by James Canfield as testament to that fact.
Beautiful Decay runs April 14-23 at Portland’s Newmark Theatre
Tickets start at $29/ Groups of 10 or more start at $10