Amazed by the James Sewell Ballet Company. . . again

Deep sigh, I don't even know where to start. This was such an amazing performance-- as the James Sewell Ballet Company always is.

Chatting with a couple of the dancers the night before the show, Da'Rius Malone and Jared Boltjes, they were concerned about so many things; the lag time, being in tune and making it all work. I knew they would make it work - and they did.

One of them told me that many of the dance companies are just shutting down completely but James Sewell said, “No, we're going to make it work,” and he did.

He provided an amazing performance virtually and physically that we could stream.

It was beautiful.

We had two dancers live on stage, Malone and Boltjes, and we had four dancers being screened from Minneapolis live onto our backdrop here in Big Sky.

They were concerned about the technology and lag time. They mentioned they were watching the screen for questions. Throughout the performance I experienced almost none. The tech team and dancers were so amazing.

The first performance was part of the Chopin tribute titled "The Crown" which they have performed here in Big Sky before. With this performance they suggestively steal a crown from person to person. Sewell mentioned he felt they could do this and help make it feel that they were all together on screen from Minneapolis and in Big Sky. One Big Sky performer passed it to a performer on screen and vice versa, it did feel like they were there together.

The second piece was titled “Earth tones.” A collaboration between the Bozeman choral group "Roots in the Sky" conducted by Andrew Major. This was the only part of the evening that was prerecorded. The voices of five singers and an organist the dancers danced live to.

The third piece by Malone was my favorite. It was his first dance that he fully choreographed and it was very heartfelt and emotional. He mentioned on stage that this piece was very dear to his heart and has different meanings. The first part was a letter to an old friend and his meaning of love, and his own compass in life.

When Malone was talking about his piece, he asked,

"What part in this world do you play? As a gay African American man? Did I do everything in my power to leave this world a better place than I received it? I have to finish this out with, I am a work in progress, are we not all a work in progress?"

Such true questions, love this man!

His piece titled "Dear Christopher" was beautiful and heart wrenching.

The fourth piece was accompanied by Laura Sewell, Sewell's sister, on cello. They had a back drop of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles with dancers in the foreground, it was beautiful to the ears and eyes.

The final piece was music composed by Ted Hearne including electronics and vocals. The visuals were a screenshot of the dances live on stage and the dancers in Minneapolis multiple times in layers with a little bit of a time delay between each one as they got smaller and smaller looking like you were looking through a tunnel of them in a time lapse.

Andrew Lester, one of the performers in Minneapolis said, “It was so heartwarming to see elated theater patrons leaving WMPAC on our screen here in Minneapolis. That and the online viewers supporting our work was very validating. A truly humbling experience in this strange time. A huge thank you to John Zirkle's investment in the Arts scene in Big Sky. It's incredibly rewarding to see the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center continue to thrive.”

And I really want to end the season by saying thank God for not just James Sewell, but also John Zirkle and the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, the tech staff and for everyone included in making art happen, for making it accessible to us. We love you!

You can still stream these shows at They should be available for another couple weeks or more. It is well worth your time. It is only $7, less than the price of a movie ticket, yet so much better. Please help support creative people who are working so hard to be even more creative.


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