Renato Zanella Tackles Schoenberg at SFB

Few would call Arnold Schoenberg’s music “danceable.” His esoteric scores are often atonal, with knotty, impenetrable rhythms.

 

But choreographer Renato Zanella sees musical challenges as choreographic assets. “Sometimes ballet needs a complicated musical structure to develop fully,” he says. So it’s fitting that Zanella has chosen to set Underskin, his new work for San Francisco Ballet that premieres in April, to Schoenberg’sVerklärte Nacht. “The complex passion of this score is the motor of my ballet,” Zanella says. “I’m making a dramatic work, and the music supports the drama.”

 

SFB principal Katita Waldo, one of the ballet’s leads, was impressed by Zanella’s understanding of the score. “I was nervous when I heard the ballet would be to Schoenberg,” she remembers. “But when we started rehearsal, Renato had already figured everything out: how the steps would fit with the music, how to count it. He was so clear and specific that things just fell into place.”

 

 

The resulting piece for 15 dancers is “an emotional voyage, a story of a woman, or maybe many women,” Zanella says. Waldo adds that Zanella left the plot intentionally vague during rehearsals. “He kept emphasizing that he wants it to be open to interpretation,” she says. “But my take on my own character is that she is in transition: pushing to go somewhere new, but stuck, somehow, between two worlds.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ballet Stars

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Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

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Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

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