American Contemporary Ballet
Scintillating conversation, hands-on history lessons, and bottomless wine are most likely not what you picture when imagining a trip to the ballet. Surprisingly, it’s what you experience at the American Contemporary Ballet (ACB), the unique brainchild of co-founders Lincoln Jones and Theresa Farrell. ACB seamlessly incorporates performance and education to make for a truly informed experience on behalf of the audience. Both experienced dancers with a passion for the art form, Jones and Farrell “were keen about dance in 17th century France, when everyone part of the royal court danced themselves — we thought how amazing it must’ve been to have an audience that sophisticated and knowledgeable,” recounts Jones. And thus, the pair set out to create such an audience today.
Among ACB’s bountiful offerings are not just lectures, but also performances with live music and actual demonstrative dancing in order to give patrons an in-depth education. The founders have launched a seven-year project, with “one hour each year focusing chronologically on a major period of dance history,” at the end of which, “anyone who attends will have a truly incredible knowledge of dance,” promises Jones. ACB’s performances consist of solely live music, which Jones and Farrell believe makes for a “much better, more visceral experience,” in which “live, electric interactions between musicians and dancers occur”.
The dancers and musicians here hail from all corners of the country, and come together to perform for ACB audiences in a raw space on the 32nd floor of the Bloc Tower. There are no walls, so audiences watch the engaging choreography unfold against a 360-degree backdrop of the city. Additionally, there is no actual stage – setting the ACB experience even further apart from traditional ballets. “We aim to take ballet out of the realm of allusion, we want the dancers to be seen not as characters behind a fourth wall in an otherworldly story, but as real people,” relays Jones. The audience is seated on the same level as the dancers and in close proximity, contributing all the more to ACB’s uniquely intimate experience. After the show, the audience is invited to mingle with the musicians and dancers at a wine reception with live jazz music.
At the heart of this concept, ACB aims to “create not just an audience, but a community that has ballet as a part of their cultural and social life,” says Jones. The American Contemporary Ballet is truly an experience unlike anything ever before, something one must see to believe. Despite the lack of a proverbial red curtain, the magic is still alive and twirling.
Written by Lucy Rogers-Ciaffa
Photographed by Caleb Thal