In the press
Michael Fothergill: Seasoned Performer and Emerging Choreographer ~ AL.com
Michael Fothergill has danced with the Alabama Ballet for two full seasons, but has already performed lead roles in a variety of classical and contemporary ballets and choreographed "Weighted Rhetoric" for this season's "Alabama Ballet at Home" production. His latest piece will premiere on April's "Ovation" program. His choreographic eye provides a unique perspective to dancing in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker."
"I have danced numerous productions of "The Nutcracker" since beginning my professional career in 2001. Balanchine's version differs in a variety of ways, most notably in its order throughout the production. The ballet lacks a male variation to accompany the grand pas de deux, which is unusual for a classical ballet. Also, the variation for the Sugarplum Fairy, which usually follows the grand pas, opens the Second Act instead. Although these arrangements may be out of the norm, I feel the flow of the ballet is easier to understand for those not accustomed to the story. The character and scenic development makes more sense, and in all honesty, I feel that the entrance directly to the coda from the pas de deux is much more exciting for the audience. As the Cavalier plays such a small role in the ballet, it seems odd for him to dance a variation in my opinion, at the very end of the ballet none the less."
"In terms of difficulty, Balanchine's Nutcracker is puffy (editor’s note: puffy = rigorous.) The pas, although not difficult with regards to choreography, covers a lot of space and never stops moving. It is not a lot of posing like many other classical ballets. However, there’s a lot of running, and high-intensity movement. I think the pas is choreographed particularly well to suit both dancers and to push both to reach their own artistic and technical limits. When you finish the ballet you feel like you were challenged and have accomplished something."
"Dancing with a partner that has danced the role before is obviously a plus. This is because the partner, in addition to the artistic staff, can serve as a mentor when learning any role. They already have a feel for the design of the work, know the musicality and can help to guide his/her partner through the process of developing the ballet. If two dancers that have not danced the ballet are partnered together, sometimes their own musicality, phrasing and technical preferences shine through. When one of the dancers has experienced the requirements and has been coached in the role, this lessens the chances for these discrepancies to take place, shortening the cleaning process of the ballet."
"Honestly, I have never much enjoyed "Nutcracker Season". I suppose this is because we as dancers dance to this music every year for so much of our training and careers. Like anything - it gets repetitious and old quickly. But I will say the ambiance of Christmas and the memories that I have have on stage while in production for the ballet are always enjoyable. It is nice to share in tradition, share the holiday spirit with the audiences that we perform for.
This year more than those in the past, I am enjoying the process of putting together "The Nutcracker". I think this is because I am aging and learning to appreciate each and every moment of my dancing more and more as the years go on. This may be a repetitive ballet, one that I have danced since my childhood, but I may only get to dance it for a few years longer. We have to enjoy the process as artists and we have to appreciate the time we have with everything, otherwise there is no point in indulging in anything we do."
CREATE BIRMINGHAM FEATURED ARTIST ~ Createbirmingham.org
Name: Michael Fothergill
Occupation: Choreographer with the Alabama Ballet
Creative Industry: Performing Arts
1. What does "creative Birmingham" mean to you?
Birmingham is a city that people tend to associate with the cultural history of "the South" but many are surprised by the rich and diverse artistic community that is present within the metro and surrounding areas. I myself was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a hunger for artistic collaboration, presentation, and by so many different demographics within the city. We are a trendy city that appreciates music, visual art and performance art, and I feel that within my tenure as a resident of Birmingham, this appreciation has grown to become more of a norm. More and more individuals are seeking out art, be that via gallery exposure, concert performance or dance/theater productions. To me, creative Birmingham is a process, the process where individual artists and non-profits across the artistic spectrum strive to find their own place of acceptance and appreciation within a city that seems determined to embrace the cultural awareness that these individuals and entities will bring them.
2. What would you like to see happen in Birmingham in the next five years?
I would like to see more collaboration between organizations. We have incredible artists here. Talented individuals as well as organizations put out a tremendous amount of great work per year. This work reaches thousands of area residents and inspires many to seek out their own artistic expression. However, I feel that part of what is necessary in any community is collaboration. While it is important to support the individual and the organization, to take a deeper interest is to find ways to bring forth the best in each other's endeavors with creative collaboration. For example, we have a world-class ballet company and a world class symphony in the same city. It only makes sense that they work together. This is the same for local musicians and visual artists that could help one another reach a larger audience base.
3. You have been a part of the Alabama ballet professional company for five years; what has been your favorite production during your tenure?
I have enjoyed many productions with the ballet and many have been very sentimental to me. I would have to say that first and foremost has been "Giselle". This is a dynamic ballet that fuses power and grace and is a challenge physically for all in the cast. When I first danced the production with the company, I was at a very different growth stage in my life. It would be interesting to see how my portrayal now would differ from the performances then. I have also really enjoyed our productions of "The Other", "Les Patinuers", and "Romeo and Juliet" for they all were productions that pushed me in different ways physically and emotionally.
4. What can the audience look forward to seeing in Ovation?
The upcoming production "Ovation" is not one to be missed! It is very eclectic in terms of repertoire selection, that's for sure. We begin with a charged Argentine tango-inspired work by the Alabama Ballet's resident choreographer Roger Van Fleteren. Next is my new work, more contemporary in nature, inspired by traditional Balinese movement and contrasting the elements of power and elegance. Finishing out the production is Ashton's famous work "Les Patinuers", or "The Skaters". It is a beautiful ballet full of joy and much fun. It takes place on the ice in the middle of winter. It is a spectacle and something I assure the audience will enjoy. Musically, the performance features traditional tango selections, powerful contemporary selections and classical favorites. There is certainly something for everyone.
5. How can Birmingham help support traditional arts such as the ballet?
Really what the Alabama Ballet needs most is for the localities of Alabama to give the organization a chance to dazzle. I find that when most members of our audiences take in a performance, they tend to leave fulfilled with the intention to return. We are not solely a classical or "tutu" company. We perform highly sought-after rep from many of the world's most esteemed choreographers. The organization is committed to providing the community with excellent exposure to repertoire that many regional companies of our size could never provide. There really is something for everyone here at the ballet. I would encourage the community to simply take a chance, come see us perform and I promise, you won't be disappointed. In fact, start with "Ovation". This showcase literally provides works from completely opposite sides of the spectrum. You can see first-hand what the company is capable of. Lastly, the company is comprised of 42 dancers who have come from all over the world to perform for the audiences of Birmingham. We feel that this company has a tremendous amount of capability to enhance the culture of the city and the cultural lifestyles of the residents here. We love Birmingham and have made this city our home, and all we want to do is perform for you. Take a chance!
6. Are there any local dancers or choreographers that inspire you?
I am inspired by many local artists and organizations. I feel there are great people working within administration of these organizations as well. The behind the scenes folk, if you will. Of course the artists of the Alabama Ballet and the managerial and executive staff inspire me, they are my family. But outside of the ballet I am thoroughly impressed by the efforts of The Alabama Symphony, Arova Contemporary Ballet, Children's Dance Foundation, Red Mountain Theatre and many other individuals working creatively to improve the artistic quality of life in Birmingham.
ALABAMA BALLET’S OVATION TO OPEN WITH TWO WORLD PREMIERES ~ Artsbham.com
This weekend, Alabama Ballet will present Ovation, an annual event intended to bring new and different works to the stage outside the standard company repertoire. Between rehearsals, Alabama Ballet Artistic Director Tracey Alvey explained how Ovation sets Alabama Ballet apart from other companies and why it is a must-see event.
“Every year we try to bring something entirely new to the stage; that’s something we pride ourselves on,” Alvey said. “Beyond the standard repertoire, the dancers need to be challenged, to stretch their wings a bit. There is so much talent in the company, so the dancers are always more than up to any challenge we set them.”
Roger Van Fleteren
Ovation will start off with a bang, with the world premiere of “Tango Tango,” by Roger Van Fleteren, Alabama Ballet’s associate artistic director and resident choreographer. The movements are inspired by the excitement and intensity of Argentine dance. As Alvey describes it, “Tango Tango” is “sexy and intimate,” which is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
The program will continue with another world premiere — “Chiaroscuro,” a new piece by company memberMichael Fothergill. In visual arts, chiaroscuro is a technique for depicting three-dimensional figures using contrasting light and shadow. Alvey describes the danceas “more contemporary, creative and intense.” The piece is well balanced, featuring modern choreography, women dancing off pointe, as well as elements of classical ballet. Alvey explains that because Fothergill has danced with the company for five seasons and choreographed for the dancers twice before, “he has a great sense of the talent within the company and an intimate understanding of the dancers.” He uses this insight to the fullest in his newest work, she said.
Ovation will conclude with the Alabama premiere of “Les Patineurs” (“the skaters”), by renowned choreographer Frederick Ashton, the founding choreographer of the Royal Ballet. Choreographed for an ensemble of 15 dancers, it depicts a Victorian ice skating party on a snowy winter evening. Since its triumphant premiere in London in 1937, it has been performed more than 350 times in England alone.
Alvey explains that transforming the movements and tricks of an ice skater into balletic vocabulary is “a great challenge” and requires the dancers to “be heavy in the legs to mimic ice skaters.” The dancers bring to life what she describes as “that quintessentialscene from the fancy chocolate boxes one receives at Christmas.” In short, the piece “is quite a treat, for the dancers and for the audience.”
Alvey’s artistic leadership and vision help bring Ovation to life. As she puts it, she is “a bit cheeky. I ask for the moon and I go for what I want.” She knows that the talent within the company is strong enough, so she does not hesitate to accept new and challenging works or ask for the rights to perform works by major choreographers. Alabama Ballet’s focus on presenting new works every season has given the company a strong reputation and identity around the world. Dancers flock to the company because they want to perform new pieces, originate roles, and have choreographers design roles for them based upon their strengths and personalities.
Birmingham audiences are no doubt more familiar with Alabama Ballet’s standard repertoire offerings. There is nothing quite like seeing “The Nutcracker” during the holidays, but Ovation shows a different side of the company, with the dancers “trying new things and putting their hearts out there for the audience,” as Alvey explains. “There is so much more than ‘The Nutcracker.’ If you liked that performance, come to Ovation. You’ll be surprised.”
Dance the dream for a better world ~ thedreamat50.com
Choreographer for Dance the Dream at 50
Dance the Dream is a fully inclusive worldwide flash mob dance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Everyone is invited to celebrate and live Dr. King's dream. To receive updated details on the dance locations and times please "Like" ourFacebook page.
The mission of Dance the Dream is to create a shared life-affirming experience that galvanizes global solidarity for overcoming division and solving problems. It is about people from every corner of the planet coming together in Dr. King's "symphony of brotherhood" to inaugurate a new era of progress and possibility.
In cooperation with UNESCO's World Heritage Project, the dance sites represent the world's geographic and cultural diversity as well as our history and fragility as a global civilization.
Participating cities include Beirut, Boston, Dublin, Chicago, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Kabul, London, Los Angeles, Manhattan (Kansas), Miami, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Prague, Singapore, and Washington, D.C.
The choreographers include Janine Coelho of St. Andrew's College for Mumbai, Nanou Coranson of the Conservatoire de Malakoff for Beirut, Laura Donnelly of Kansas State University for Manhattan, Julia Eichten of the L.A. Dance Project, Kansas, Carol Foster of the DC Youth Ensemble for Washington, D.C., Michael Fothergill of Alabama Ballet, Gin Lam and Clarice Ng for Singapore, Jenna Lee of the English National Ballet for London, Gregory Maqoma of the Vuyani Dance Theatre for Johannesburg, Mourad Merzouki of Compagnie Käfig for Paris, Nicole Pierce of Ego Art for Boston, Rosta Srom of Studio Dance Perfect for Prague, Winston Strickland of M.A.D. Skillz Dance Company, Jane Weiner of Hope Stone, Olivier Wevers of Whim W'Him Dance Company, Anthony "Redd" Williams for Ferguson/St. Louis, Hattie Mae Williams for Miami, and Obediah Wright of the Obediah Wright Dance Company for New York. Choreographers who would like to enlist in Dance the Dreamshould email their request with a resume and reel link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each participating choreographer creates original choreography to two musical selections: a new multilingual arrangement produced by The Dream@50 of Stevie Wonder's hit, "Heaven Help Us All," and a second selection of the local choreographer's choosing. In addition, songs performed by musicians from around the world are being taped for inclusion in Dance the Dream broadcasts.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Richard Karz is the producer of the PBS documentary special, Legacy: Being Black in America, which explores the rise of Barack Obama against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.
International Dance Producer
Charlene Lim is Founder and CEO of Global Arts Link and was Director of Partnerships at the International Theatre Institute (ITI), a global performing arts organization based in UNESCO, Paris.
U.S. Dance Producer
Toni Thomas is Co-Producer of the Miami Dance Festival, Dance Presenter of the Los Angeles' African-American Heritage Month, and Dance Producer of the 21st Annual 2011 Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch NAACP Theatre Awards and Festival.
H. B. BARNUM
H. B. is the music director for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. He has scored music for television shows, including The Grammy's, The Stellar Awards, NAACP Image Awards, The Globe Awards, and The Olympics.
Fothergill to judge international dance competition in Japan
Follow on Twitter on March 28, 2016 at 9:38 AM,
Updated March 28, 2016 at 11:54 AM
Alabama Ballet Company dancer Michael Fothergill, in his sixth season with Alabama Ballet, has been invited to judge the Hokkaido Ballet Competition, a dance competition in Sapporo, Japan, April 1-3.Out of seven jury members, Fothergill will be the only American selected to judge the competition. Competitors from across the country travel to Sapporo for three days of intense competition to gain job offers, scholarships to international schools to further their training and more. Dancers compete with classical and contemporary ballet variations.Fothergill will be awarding scholarships for multiple U.S. schools, including two to the Alabama Ballet's 2016 Summer Intensive. Japan Ballet Association, which sponsors the event, is the governing body of ballet across the country and serves as a unifying organization among many academies and professional companies, as well as a facilitator for guest performers to enter the country and/or Japanese dancers to work their way abroad. Fothergill also will return to Japan during the summer to teach for the Japan Ballet Association's Summer Intensive, an international summer course sponsored by the organization, in which multiple international teachers are brought in for a week to intensively train the dancers across the country who are accepted to the program. In addition, he will be creating a new work for the organization over the course of eight weeks this summer with Alabama Ballet Company dancer Catherine Garratt. He will be the first American to choreograph at this level within Japan Ballet Association's Hokkaido Branch.Fothergill began his training in Ames, Iowa, at the Robert Thomas Dancenter, completing his study while a full-scholarship recipient to the Boston Ballet School and The School of American Ballet. He has performed within New York City and with New Jersey Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, City Ballet of San Diego, Charleston Ballet Theatre and extensively abroad. He has danced leads in much of the classical repertoire and in numerous contemporary compositions. Fothergill's choreographies have been performed throughout the United States and internationally.He has been going to Japan as a dancer, choreographer and guest instructor for 11 years. After a long stint of performing, serving as a guest instructor and setting works across the country, he finally has worked his way into a more prominent position within the Japan Ballet Association's ranks. Fothergill is thrilled to work at this level with the Japan Ballet Association and honored to represent the Alabama Ballet in his endeavors overseas.