Dancers in pale pink point shoes leaped and twirled as sun shone brightly through large windows at the Brae Crest School of Classical Ballet on Sunday. The dancers, all members of the State Ballet of Rhode Island (SBRI), were learning choreography taught by Mia Nocera Godbout, a Warwick resident and choreographer for SBRI.
Godbout was preparing them to perform an entirely new ballet composed by Christy Isles of Barrington. Isles, now a professional composer, danced at SBRI when she was younger. So when she decided to compose a ballet, she knew where to go.
Last year she approached SBRI's executive director, Anna Marsden, with her idea. Marsden loved the thought of doing a new ballet to live music, and forwarded Isles' pieces to Godbout, a resident choreographer. Godbout loved the music, and began to discuss her thoughts with Isles.
“We both had the same ideas in our heads,” said Godbout. “It turned out to be a good partnership.”
Godbout began dancing with SBRI when she was 7, and eventually worked her way up to become a principal dancer. In 2007, she retired from the stage, and became a resident choreographer with the company.
“If it weren't for Anna, I never would have tried [choreographing],” she said.
Isles and Godbout began their collaboration in the summer, and Godbout began teaching the dancers their choreography in January. But long before the dancers learned their steps, Isles was busy writing the music they would dance to.
“I wanted to write a ballet,” said Isles. “It's been a long time since I've seen a ballet performed to live music.”
Isles discovered her music writing abilities in 2007, when she went back to study at Rhode Island College. Ten years before, Isles had gone to RIC to study piano performance but injured herself and was unable to play.
“You spend your whole life doing something you love, and then it's stripped from your life,” she said. “I didn't know what to do.”
After taking some time off, she decided to re-enroll in college, and a professor encouraged her to explore her compositional abilities.
Isles and Godbout find it serendipitous that they both chose their current paths as composer and choreographer in the same year: 2007. The pair did not know one another before their introduction last summer, but they've found that working together comes naturally.
“I really like it,” said Godbout. “I love to work with her.”
The two have created what they call “Safari,” a piece in six movements that takes the audience on a tour of the world via music and dance. The first movement opens in America, and the ballet progresses to Ireland, Spain, Russia, France and then back to the U.S.
Isles said some of the earlier pieces took only two to three weeks to compose, but others took longer. She's still working on the finishing touches of the Russian movement.
Isles said she has worked to subtly incorporate sounds from various countries in her music, while not overburdening the piece’s foreign musical cadence.
“It's simplistic,” she said.
Performers ages 13 and up have been rehearsing to get their “Tour de Ballet” concert ready for performance, and will take the stage at Roberts Hall at RIC in May. They will be accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra, which Isles will play piano for.
“It will be a very palpable experience for everybody,” she said.
In addition to the performance, there will be a visual art aspect of the show. Mya Taveras, the owner and proprietor of Bristol Looms, will weave six tapestries inspired by the six movements of Isles' piece. These tapestries will be on display in the lobby of the theater.
“The State Ballet of Rhode Island gives opportunity to all genres,” said Marsden. “How educating for our dancers and for our audience to try something new.”
“Tour de Ballet” featuring Isles' “Safari” with choreography by Godbout will have two performances, on May 11 at 8 p.m. and May 12 at 2:30 p.m., at Roberts Hall at Rhode Island College. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for students and $16 for children under 12. Tickets can be purchased at www.stateballet.com or by calling SBRI at 334-2560 or RIC at 456-8144.