Performers selected the music for their solo performances, which were “personal investigations” and “a reflection of their artistic cores.” PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ZIRKLE

The unstoppable artistry of the James Sewell Ballet

A recent performance at Warren Miller Performing Arts Center showcased artistic innovation

The ability to convey emotion with seamless navigation of the body. Fluid artistry by way of sinewy forms. Performers with the James Sewell Ballet have spent their lifetimes seeking perfection in movement. Dancers – and audiences – are transformed.

Art can and should be about expression and sharing, the push and pull of different thoughts. When the performers step out on stage, they carry with them every triumph and every failure. The ability to stand alone before an audience is one of the most coveted, terrifying, and potentially rewarding experiences in an artistic career. To do so takes guts, particularly for those so accustomed to sharing the stage with others. It is an act of self-assertion, of faith in one’s ability and in the importance of the message being conveyed. The stage lights go on and they share parts of themselves. It is that intimacy – the willing vulnerability – that gives artists their power. And the dancers with the James Sewell Ballet are most certainly powerful.

Six performers: Jarod Boltjes, Arimee Gambill, Andrew Lester, Chloe Duryea, Da’rius Malone and Ashely Chin-Mark recently shared their talents with Big Sky upon the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center (WMPAC) stage.

“Each piece is titled for the dancer featured, as each process was a personal investigation and the final product a reflection of their artistic cores,” according to the program.

As was discussed by WMPAC Executive Director John Zirkle early in the season, artists and venues have been pushed to a more feverish exploration of the ways to convey and share artistic pursuits due to COVID-19.

In the case of the James Sewell Ballet, Zirkle says they meet the demands of the times with poise and creative depth.

“James Sewell is at home in the Big Sky community, and I am so thrilled to see locals continue to support his innovative approach to movement, even during these difficult times,” he said. “The program of solos and creative video projects this March was another shining example of how James and the company continue to create inspiring performance art, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles like COVID.”

Big Sky resident Kevin Pillsbury, who was one of the live audience members, said the event was entirely enjoyable.

“I was happy to see that they were able to put a solid program together, despite the challenges in their way. The solos were intricate and unique, while they still had an ability to create an ensemble as well,” he said.

WMPAC created a season of hybrid programming – limited live audiences and performers or unlimited virtual access. It is a move to preserve the integrity of performances while keeping artists and audience members safe.

“We so admire John (Zirkle) and the entire WMPAC team for continuing to support artists and community with innovative programming that has converted pandemic limitations into creative potential,” James Sewell Ballet Executive Director Eve Schulte said. “We are thankful to call Big Sky our second home!”

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