Lexington Ballet show designed to rock world of younger audiences

Contributing Arts WriterSeptember 13, 2012 

Lexington Ballet rehearsed in April 2010 for a previous version of Hard Rock Ballet, a show that pairs classical ballet with classic rock.

  • IF YOU GO

    'Hard Rock Ballet'

    What: Performance by the company of the Lexington Ballet to classic rock songs.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, 15; 2 p.m. Sept. 16.

    Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.

    Tickets: $29.75 general admission, $19.75 students; available at Lexington Center ticket office and all Ticketmaster outlets. Call (859) 233-3535 or go to Lexingtonoperahouse.com.

    Learn more: Lexingtonballet.org.

Pointe shoes and Pink Floyd might seem worlds apart, but Luis Dominguez aims to unite classical ballet with classic rock in Lexington Ballet's latest production, Hard Rock Ballet.

Choreographed by Dominguez, who also serves as Lexington Ballet's artistic director, the high-energy, fast-paced show features his company of professional dancers performing to 20 iconic rock numbers.

Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Elvis, Aerosmith, Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix are just a few of the rockers whose anthems provide the backdrop for Dominguez's dancers to showcase the relevance of ballet in modern times.

Dominguez hopes the show will introduce a new audience to the world of classical dance.

"The idea behind it was to attract a younger audience to the ballet," he says. "So many times in classical ballet, we are unable to attract young people and students. I thought, 'What a better way than to engage them than through music.'"

Ironically, the youthful audience members Dominguez hopes to attract, as well as the company's dancers, were born long after Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone defined a generation. But many of the songs Dominguez chose are so embedded in the fabric of pop culture that generation gaps matter very little.

"It's interesting because it's timeless," he says. "It's really classic rock."

Ballerina Lauren Tenney, 24, who performs in several of the show's numbers, knew many of the tunes in Hard Rock Ballet.

"I grew up listening to a lot of these songs because of my dad, so these weren't songs I was unfamiliar with," says Tenney. "Plus, a lot of these were songs you would've heard growing up, and some of them were in movies.

"Like the Joan Jett song I Love Rock n Roll, that was in the Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning movie The Runaways. Even if you are younger you have probably heard most of these songs before."

Despite the ballet's focus on rock music, the dance elements remain chiefly classical.

"In terms of movement, we use the classical vocabulary," Dominguez says, "but at the same time we incorporate neoclassical and sometimes modern techniques. But the whole thing is done on pointe shoes, so rarely do you see anything but classical ballet."

For Tenney, who has been with the company four years, combining classical ballet with modern music is fun and uniquely challenging as a dancer.

"It's very technically demanding," says Tenney. "In some ways this is harder than doing a classical performance — a lot of it was never intended to be done in pointe shoes, so we're trying to do these great moves from Elvis Presley and we're trying to do it en pointe, but we have to put it in a classical realm so some moves are more difficult than they were intended to be. "

Enjoying a creative departure from traditional programming makes the technical challenges worthwhile.

"The music definitely makes it easy for all of us because it's fun and enjoyable," says Tenney. "It sort of takes away the pain a little bit because the steps are difficult, but we have such a good time."

"It's very much a rock concert feel," she says, describing the evening's ambiance, which includes atmospheric smoke and lighting.

When Dominguez unveiled a previous version of the Hard Rock Ballet in 2010, he received a lot of positive feedback from first-time ballet goers, a success he hopes to repeat.

"That's really rewarding for me because it means I am making an important connection," says Dominguez, "I am hopefully connecting people to this lost art form."

Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.

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