Bill Evans choreographs piece for Rochester City Ballet

05:00 AM, May 12, 2013

Ben Rabe, who used to be a Rochester City Ballet dancer and now is part of the Ballet Met of Ohio, returns to perform LumaVoce with the Rochester dance company. (MARIE DE JESUS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)/


Written By Catherine Roberts Lead Local Editor/Life

If you go

What: Rochester City BalletÂ’s Past, Present and Future.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. next Sunday.
Where: Nazareth College Performing Arts Center, 4245 East Ave., Pittsford.
Tickets: $45 to $60; call (585) 389-2170 or artscenter.naz.edu.

Bill Evans didn’t know Timothy Draper.

But he felt like he did because dancers he knows here — especially Kathleen Diehl, a fellow instructor at The College at Brockport and Bill Evans Dance member — studied under Draper.

So when Evans started choreographing a number for the Rochester City Ballet on mentors, he knew he would pay tribute to the company’s founder.

His For Tim: Remembering Beloved Mentors will be part of “Past, Present, Future,” the ballet company’s 25th anniversary concert next weekend at Nazareth College.

RCB artistic director Jamey Leverett says when she started putting the concert together, she wanted to celebrate the company’s milestones and how collaborative it has become. Also on the program is her LumaVoce (which has commissioned music by Stephen Kennedy), 4Play (a lighter piece performed with drums onstage) and Balanchine’s Serenade (because when the Balanchine Trust approves a company to use the great choreographer’s work, you know you’ve built a strong artistic foundation).

Leverett chose LumaVoce, not only because she’s proud of the final product, first performed more than five years ago, but because it was a personal milestone in her choreography. Her husband, Tim, without knowing it, issued a challenge when he told her that dance could not be created without music. So Jamey Leverett choreographed a dance, then found someone to score it.

It also stands out from the other pieces she has choreographed because it’s done to hand-held lighting.

It’s very intimate,” she says, creating “beautiful and mysterious shadows.”

Leverett wanted a new piece that also showed the spirit of collaboration, so when Evans approached her about setting a dance with RCB, she knew that would be part of it.

Evans first saw Rochester City Ballet dancers at the Nazareth College Dance Festival, and knew immediately he wanted to work with the young company. Then a friend of his, Claudia Queen, received a grant from the University of North Texas to compose an album of music about mentors. Part of the grant allowed for the music to be used in dance, and she reached out to Evans, a veteran dance professor and performer who is now at The College at Brockport.

Last summer, two of Evans’ closest mentors died and he was looking for a way to work through the grief. He chose a haunting piece from Queen’s album to set the dance, which will be played by the Amenda Quartet during the concert.

I’m in love with the music,” says Leverett, who trained as a young dancer then served under Draper. “The music is so touching.”

The piece is about grief — how you react to a good friend’s death, how you support each other through it and, ultimately, how you emerge with a feeling of hope as you see his or her spirit in others.

The feelings I had pent up for my dear friends who had passed away, they came pouring out,” Evans says.

Evans, who has his own dance company, Bill Evans Dance, was asked to speak at a program remembering one of his friends. What struck him was that the program had such a hopeful tone, he says.

I could see her everywhere — her values, the community she developed, the spirit of her dance department lived on,” he says. “It’s uplifting to see how many people one person can touch.”

That same feeling is what he gets when people talk about Draper, so he used them as he developed a piece that was heavy and introspective at the beginning and more buoyant and outward-looking at the end.

The RCB dancers had to learn new techniques for the piece. While the Rochester City Ballet is a contemporary company, it still relies on a base of classical training in both its dancers and its choreography.

Ballet lifts away from the earth, expressing emotion in facial expressions and arm movements. Modern dance shifts the weight downward. The emotion is seen in all of the bodies’ movements. When expressing joy, the movements then become more outward.

In the new piece, Evan says he’s been pleased to see how eager the dancers were to learn techniques and how, when he’s watching, he can see their emotions transformed by the end of the week.

Mostly what I loved was the process of getting to know these young artists, the journey,” he says.