Devon Carney Talks Lady of the Camellias

Kansas City Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney shares some thoughts on the company’s upcoming performances of Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24 at the Kauffman Center.

The Choreographer

It’s a privilege for Kansas City Ballet to perform this landmark creation by the world-class choreographer Val Caniparoli—one of his signature works.

Caniparoli is no stranger to Kansas City Ballet. In February 2010, the company presented his Lambarena with its striking music, a mix of Bach and African rhythms. Then in May of 2017, our company performed his dramatic and intense ballet, The Lottery, based on Shirley Jackson’s shocking short story by the same name.

The Ballet

For Lady of the Camellias, his choreography demands a physical technicality and profound artistry from the dancers to express the breadth of emotion in this compelling story. It’s an intense artistic challenge and an opportunity for our dancers to develop true three-dimensional characters. We continue to raise the level of artistic content and thus, the quality of our artists. Building on this momentum keeps moving them forward, as we continually find productions to benefit both you, our audience, and our dancers alike.

In this particular ballet, our journey includes experiencing romantic interludes with Armand, a young countryman, and Marguerite, a famous courtesan as they become entangled in a forbidden affair. These two come from differing backgrounds and socio-economic levels, but they discover true love. At its heart, this is a story of love at its deepest and most sincere. And this strong romantic connection between these two characters makes this such a great story ballet—one that will surely endure for the ages.

Despite everything they experience, Marguerite has faith in Armand and hope for their life.
Love is indeed the greatest power one can experience in life.

Ultimately though, the forces working against them lead to heartbreak and loss. Of course, the
final scene rips your heart apart with such romance and compassion and yearning for what might have been.

Through it all, I’m reminded of this famous quote from George Sand: There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

Top photograph by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Emily Mistretta

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Emily Mistretta, joined the company in 2016. She is thrilled to debut as the ravishing courtesan, Marguerite, in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Dancers: Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Dancers: Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.

Q: WHAT WERE YOU FEELING/THINKING WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU’D BE DANCING THE ROLE OF MARGUERITE? 

A: I was so excited  when I heard I was being considered for the role of Marguerite. I performed in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias when I was still dancing with Boston Ballet and fell in love with the ballet and especially her character. I would watch every night from the wings the end scene of Marguerite in her room alone. It’s so transporting.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH REGARDS TO LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS?

A: I’m most looking forward to the acting aspect of the ballet. I have always loved the side of ballet that tells a story and lets you really become somebody or something else. It’s exciting getting into her character and persona, trying to find the different layers of her and attempting to portray that to the audience.

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: HAVE YOU EVER DANCED IN ANY OF vAL cANIPAROLI’S BALLETS?

A: I danced in Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery during my first season with KCB. I played the role of Mrs. Summers who struggles to go against the grain of the rest of society. It was a somewhat dark ballet to dance. I really enjoyed that intensity.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT REHEARSALS?

A: I enjoy the work itself. Getting into the gritty details and figuring out what works best for me. It’s a discussion and a discovery that kind of unfolds. I kind of have to go through the muck and figure it out, but when I do it feels so rewarding.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Behind the Scenes: Lady of the Camellias

Dancers Kaleena Burks and James Kirby Rogers with Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Kaleena Burks and James Kirby Rogers with Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Kansas City Ballet dancers are busy rehearsing in the studios. They perform Val Caniparoli‘s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Set to Frédéric Chopin’s romantic score, Alexandre Dumas’ love story makes its triumphant Kansas City premiere. The story inspired popular adaptations including Baz Luhrman’s movie Moulin Rouge! and Verdi’s opera La Traviata.

REHEARSAL FOOTAGE

REHEARSAL PHOTOS

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

DANCER PROFILES

Learn more about the dancers in the lead roles of Armand and Marguerite.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Lamin Pereira dos Santos

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Lamin Pereira dos Santos, joined the company in 2014. Since then, he’s performed a number of principal roles in ballets from Albrecht in Giselle to Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty. This will be his second time performing in a ballet by choreographer Val Caniparoli. In 2017, he performed in Caniparoli’s The Lottery, based Shirley Jackson’s short story by the same name. He is thrilled to debut as Armand in this production of Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH REGARDS TO LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS?

A: I am definitely looking forward to performing this beautiful ballet with the most amazing piece of music composed by Chopin. Really, it’s a dream come true and I could not ask for better.

After being a super in ABT’s Lady of The Camellias back in 2010 and being fortunate enough to watch the company rehearsals performed by super stars Julie Kent, Marcelo Gomes, Roberto Bolle and Diana Vishneva in the principal roles of Marguerite and Armand I completely fell in love with the ballet and its story. But overall the acting and drama play a big part in it. And that’s why I love it so much.

During those rehearsals I witnessed so much emotion, love, drama and sadness. It helped me see ballet in a different way. At the end of rehearsals fellow dancers were in tears because the were touched by what they saw and felt. Right away I wanted to do the same and touch people’s heart and inspire them.

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: HOW WILL THIS ROLE STRETCH YOU AND HELP YOU GROW AS A DANCER? 

A: This role will help me grow in many different ways. This time the challenge is a bit different and it goes beyond pirouettes and double tours. We all have technique, we all can do those things. But can you do that and act at the same time? I am so looking forward to performing a role different from the ones in classical ballet.

Q: HOW DO YOU GET INTO CHARACTER FOR THESE PRINCIPAL ROLES?

A: I get into character for these principals roles by listening to what the stager is passing on to me throughout the rehearsal process. I also do my own research by watching videos of dancers that I look up to and by recording my rehearsals whenever is possible so I can look for mistakes and for details that can add to telling the story perfectly. Finding the right resource is crucial to expending my knowledge.

Q: WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU ARE PARTNERING?

A: To be honest, I think about what is happening exactly at that moment in the drama. It helps to not think about what’s going to come up next in the ballet such as the next scene or next act. It will all happen naturally.

Dancers Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Dancers Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO TO PREPARE FOR THIS ROLE?

A: As part of my physical training for this role, I am at the gym at 6:00 a.m. for a workout designed to improve my strength and stamina. When the show opens, I’ll perform a ten-minute pas de deux with lots of lifts, so I have added more to my routine in the gym to prepare. A lot of times people don’t realize what it takes to be a male ballet dancer and make everything look graceful, effortless and lift ballerinas over our heads.

Q: WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR YOU TO BE SATISFIED WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE?

A: It is hard to be completely satisfied because every performance will be different. It’s never going to be perfect every time! But going on stage with confidence, commitment and passion will make me satisfied. You just have to embrace the role 100% for sure and let your experience and artistry take over the stage and the moment. Everything will fall into the right place.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios