Charlotte, N.C. – North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Dangerous Liaisons weaves audiences through a twisted tale of passion, betrayal and revenge April 26-28 at the Knight Theater. The provocative love story is brought to the stage by Dance Theatre rehearsal director and choreographer, Sasha Janes.
Dangerous Liaisons is a contemporary ballet based on the 1782 French novel “Les Liaisons dangereuses.” In 1988 the novel was adapted into an Oscar winning film starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. In the late nineties the story was given a modern day adaption in “Cruel Intentions.”
Janes says he wanted to choreograph Dangerous Liaisons for two reasons. One, he says the story is timeless. “The central themes of greed, lust and manipulation are all still relevant.” Two, Janes says his favorite kind of dance to choreograph is a pas de deux, which is a dance for two people. “The story is all about relationships, so it’s great fodder for choreographing really interesting pas de deuxs.”
Janes, from Perth, Australia, received his training at the Australian Ballet School. Before joining North Carolina Dance Theatre, he danced professionally with the West Australian Ballet, Australian Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Dayton Ballet and Chautauqua Festival Ballet. In 2006 Janes, then a dancer with NC Dance Theatre, was commissioned to choreograph his first ballet. Since then he has choreographed 15 ballets for Chautauqua Festival Ballet and NC Dance Theatre.
In 2011, after a 23-year dance career, Janes became Dance Theatre’s rehearsal director and frequent choreographer. Dangerous Liaisons is Janes’ first time creating a contemporary ballet for an existing story. “The biggest challenge to choreographing a ballet using a story people may be familiar with is staying true to the story while at the same time taking the liberty to recreate the drama through movement,” Janes said.
Helping Janes recreate the drama of Dangerous Liaisons is musician Ben Sollee, a classically trained pop cellist and vocalist who has released three solo albums and worked with artists like Bela Fleck, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and Vienna Teng. “Ben has worked with dancers before and is interested in how music and dance blend together. Audience members get to enjoy a dramatic ballet and a concert,” said Janes. “Ben will perform live during each show, suspended above the stage.”
Sollee, from Louisville, Ky., was introduced to Janes by company dancer David Ingram. Janes was searching for music for his adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, and Sollee took on the challenge. “Dangerous Liaisons is a complex and infamously erotic story,” Sollee explains. “The music provides detail for each character as they scheme their way around. I took a cinematic approach utilizing solo cello with electronics to create textures and rhythms that accompany the movement.”
Adding to the richness of the production will be large television screens placed in various positions on the stage. “Since Dangerous Liaisons is a complicated, layered story, the screens will be used to propel the plot,” Janes explains.
Helping further illustrate the story and characters are costumes by designer Jennifer Symes, who also happens to be Janes’ mother. “The costumes were designed with the individual character in mind, offering the audience insight into the character’s personality and role in the story,” Janes said.
Dangerous Liaisons has become a family project for Janes. In addition to working with his mother as the costume designer, Janes’ partner, Rebecca Carmazzi, will dance the role of Marquise de Merteuil, one of the central characters. The performances will be Carmazzi’s first since she and Janes had twin sons last year. The two also have a 3-year-old daughter. “Dangerous Liaisons is the biggest project of my career so far and getting to share the experience with Rebecca makes it that much more exciting,” said Janes.
Others dancing in central roles include David Ingram as the Vicomte de Valmont and Pete Walker as the Chevalier Danceny.
Tickets to Dangerous Liaisons start at $25 and can be purchased at 704.372.1000, ncdance.org and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Box Office. Janes is documenting the creation of Dangerous Liaisons on his blog at sashajanes.com.
Dwight Rhoden’s Artifice
Dangerous Liaisons opens with Dwight Rhoden’s Artifice. Last performed by NC Dance Theatre in 2007, the intriguing ballet delves into the imagination of a circus ringmaster, as he creates his own personal symphony using a colorful cast of characters and music by the Kronos Quartet.
A former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, choreographer Dwight Rhoden joined NC Dance Theatre as resident choreographer in 2006 and travels to Charlotte several times a year to work with the Company. Rhoden was hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most sought out choreographers of the day.” He has choreographed ballets for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company, Dance Theater of Harlem, Miami City Ballet and New York City Ballet/Diamond Project. His choreography has also been featured on the hit FOX television show, “So You Think You Can Dance.”