We love things made in Birmingham. Here at the Weekly we support them. And we support Birmingham doing the same.
And today Birmingham has some pretty fine ballet.
But such was not always the case. Now there are several companies well worth seeing. I go myself so I am not just giving lip service to the arts.
But there was a time when there was only one company struggling.
The Awakening, which has its world premiere May 5 at the BJCC, is the story of that ballet. And it is a ballet created and choreographed by Birmingham’s first ballet director, Alfonso Figueroa (pictured below).
It was initially a story of rejection, as Birmingham did not care too much for such dancing in the 1970s. But that was not the end of it. Prokofiev and Stravinsky were banned in their day, too. But they made a comeback.
The fledgling company went on tour in 1974 to win acclaim in other cities—in order to gain acceptance in Birmingham.
And Figueroa is still trying to change the idea of ballet, that every performance does not have to be a traditional classic in toe shoes and tutus, that it is living, modern art.
Not that Figueroa did not have the most rigorous classical training in New York with the likes of Pearl Lang, Richard Thomas, and Elliot Feld. And that curriculum has been implemented at the Birmingham Ballet for technical proficiency.
But he does not want stereotypes of what ballet should be to hold it back. He choreographed the new ballet himself. But the new ballet is the story of the beginnings of ballet in Birmingham, when Figueroa, a dancer from the ghetto in Harlem, teamed up with Virginia Simpson, an heiress and patron of the arts. Simpson devoted tremendous time and resources to them as a way of changing Birmingham’s image for backwardness, and to serve as a unifying force in a divided city.
Virginia Simpson made the ballet, and other arts institutions that exist in Birmingham today, happen. And then it was all cut short. She was shot in her bed in her mansion atop Red Mountain.
With that tragedy, Figueroa’s daring experiment with ballet in Birmingham failed. His company folded. Now he is trying to raise it up again, with its story retold in dance. *** According to the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Alabama Department of Transportation also needs to wake up and open its eyes.
Since an environmental impact study was done on the Northern Beltline project decades ago, the projected cost of the road has risen to $4.7 billion, I-22 is nearing completion, Jefferson County is bankrupt (thanks, in part, to its still inadequate sewer system), and major changes have occurred in the ecosystem regarding threatened species.
Without addressing these developments of recent decades, ALDOT
intends to break ground on construction of the highway project this year. SELC and BWR filed a motion in their pending lawsuit to amend their complaint and insist that these changed circumstances be considered in a supplemental environmental impact statement.
The story of The Awakening is even more firmly rooted in the past, unfolding before a world even existed online, if you can imagine that. If you have been sleeping, you may have missed the Weekly there through the anniversary of the tornadoes.
In fact, if you failed to check out the Birmingham Weekly online edition (some were even gloating because they thought we were gone—not nice!), then you might have missed Out of My Head, which for some unknown reason is the most popular thing in the paper next to Ann Rose, according to the website hits.
If you are awake now, you can find it here: bhamweekly/2012/03/30/#?article=1556310 So you would rather have a fix of Ann Rose? You can do that online too. Just check these links: http://bhamweekly.com/birmingham/article-2840-plantsin-wild-places.html http://bhamweekly.com/birmingham/article-2799-lowering-the-barge-on-lock-17.html http://bhamweekly.com/birmingham/article-2566-the-special-class-of-elyton.html Or just spread your net wide by going to www.bhamweekly.com and searching for Ann Rose. Find out why 5000 people went online to see her article the first day it was out.
And speaking of the olden days, read Yore + Lore, in this issue, in print or online, to see why Barbara Dooley moved to Hollywood and to the back of the bus.
You can check out the Weekly online, and that is fine. But as for the ballet, go see the live performance in person.
The Awakening premieres May 5th at the BJCC Theatre at 7:30 pm.
The program features three separate ballets: Montana Skies by Director Cindy Free, Changes by Alfonso Figueroa, and The Awakening by Alfonso Figueroa. Tickets can be purchased online at www.BirminghamBallet.com or by calling the Birmingham Ballet Performing Arts Centre at 205-979-9492.