Golden State Ballet’s “Emerge” represents the turning points in Raul Salamanca’s career, with a quartet of works that connect the artistic director’s past with his goals for the future.
As a new nonprofit, Golden State Ballet sprouted from the roots of the California Ballet company. Last year, it brought back “The Nutcracker” to the San Diego Civic Theatre.
Now, Salamanca intends to prove that the company can survive and thrive post-pandemic.
“This is our first production as a company,” Salamanca said during a rehearsal break. “We were there to save ‘The Nutcracker,’ so the production would remain and we could have dancers back on stage. ‘Emerge’ is the investment that we are making in the company and in the community, and now, I get to choose what we do. There is a connection between me, progressing as a dancer, and the program.”
“Emerge” will spotlight company dancers and students from the Golden State Ballet Academy, along with contracted professionals and the commission of a world premiere by contemporary choreographer Andrea Schermoly, whom Salamanca met while dancing for the Boston Ballet.
“We both joined at the same time,” Salamanca said. “When Andrea left Boston Ballet, she went to Nederlands Dans Theater, and that’s my favorite contemporary company.”
After an injury compromised her dance career, Schermoly began choreographing contemporary works for music videos, television commercials and dance companies worldwide.
In 2018, she became the first female to be appointed resident choreographer of the Louisville Ballet in Kentucky, where she is currently based.
Schermoly’s commission for Golden State Ballet is titled “The Gatekeepers,” and the dance will be accompanied by a live chamber orchestra conducted by John Stubbs.
“I’m excited to create a premiere for them,” Schermoly said. “The dancers are really lovely and hungry. They all want to be here, and they are dedicated, focused and fun in the room. It’s a good energy.”
A composition by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki got Schermoly’s “creative juices flowing” and inspired “The Gatekeepers.”
“It’s big music, but it’s not overwhelming,” said Schermoly, who was born in South Africa and is now a United States citizen. “It’s quite brash, with a lot of variety. And it creates a nice world.”
The world that Schermoly imagines for her dance is one where women are in charge and decide the fate of men. When she first met the Golden State Ballet dancers to teach her choreography, they connected over her “big, with more velocity” movement style and her humor.
“I said we are doing a dark ‘Giselle’ on crack, and they all started laughing,” Shermoly said. “We are in a political age where men are making decisions for women, and I thought, what if that were not the case in another realm.”
Transferring his talents
In addition to the world premiere by Schermoly, “Emerge” spotlights some of Salamanca’s favorite classic ballets. He danced the part of Prince Siegfried in “Swan Lake” and the part of Jean de Brienne, the cavalier in “Raymonda,” both roles that helped to catapult his career.
For “Emerge,” which includes two casts on separate days, he has included the excerpts “Black Swan Pas de Deux” and “Raymonda Act III.”
Guest artists Vitor Luiz (San Francisco Ballet) and his wife, prima ballerina Tara Ghassemieh (American Ballet Theatre) will perform the pas de deux on Wednesday , depicting the moment when Odile tricks Prince Siegfried into believing she is Odette, so that he betrays his true love.
Company member Miranda Giles will dance “Black Swan” with international guest artist Taras Domitro on Friday.
Students from the Golden State Ballet Academy will perform in Salamanca’s version of “Raymonda Act III,” a passage from the classic ballet that includes the lavish wedding celebration of the ballerina Raymonda and her cavalier.
“The music is fantastic, and it’s a powerful, entertaining ballet with a lot of variations,” Salamanca said. “All levels of the academy get to be in it — it’s not based on one couple. It’s difficult to do properly, but I like that we can implement a lot of character styles, so it is a good match for the school to show off our talent.”
Mastering works by choreographer George Balanchine is another important goal for Salamanca’s company, and he applied to the George Balanchine Trust to present the buoyant, fast-paced “Valse-Fantasie.”
Salamanca met Balanchine Trust repetiteur John Clifford when he danced for Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montreal and invited him to travel to San Diego to set the work on his company.
“My vision for this program is to show the company and the organization with all its facets,” Salamanca said.
“I feel like having a professional company attached to a school is such a luxury. I want to expose these kids to what it is like to be a professional dancer.”
Golden State Ballet presents ‘Emerge’
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 8; 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 10
Where: Poway Center for the Performing Arts, 15498 Espola Road, Poway
Phone: (858) 748-0505
Luttrell is a freelance writer.