Dallas Chamber Symphony and Avant Chamber Ballet are preparing for the final performances of a season like no other. The 2021-2022 season was the first full season of live performances following the pandemic shutdown. Both organizations found ways to grow and connect with audiences, despite the pandemic’s challenges.
Dallas Chamber Symphony’s season finale is a concert on April 26 at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District.
“It features some my favorites, really, “said Richard McKay, the orchestra’s Artistic Director. “It will make the orchestra shine.”
The concert begins with Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1, with its classical architecture and modern harmonics.
“It’s Prokofiev writing music like Haydn might have written it if he were living in the 20th century,” McKay said.
The program continues with Bloch’s Suite Hébraïque. The piece features the orchestra’s principal violist, Dr. Misha Galaganov. Galaganov is Professor of Viola and Chair of Strings at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
“It’s one of those works he’s wanted to perform for a long time,” McKay said. “It’s unusual and completely gorgeous. And it will be the largest orchestra we’ve performed with to date.”
The second half of the concert is devoted to Brahms’ Second Symphony in D Major.
“We’re slowly making our way through the Brahms symphonies,” McKay said. “It’s a gorgeous symphony. It’s a very pastoral symphony. It’s cheerful and joyful, a least as much as you see Brahms getting.”
The piece is substantial. McKay has scheduled an extra Sunday rehearsal, giving the orchestra four rehearsals to perfect the work.
“It will get a really nice degree of polish and refinement,” McKay said.
Dallas Chamber Symphony is preparing for the Dallas International Piano Competition, an event that has been on hiatus since before the pandemic.
“We planned to take a year off before the pandemic and then the pandemic hit so that ended up getting extended,” McKay said.
This iteration of the competition has a new format. In May, the competition will welcome up to 18 pianists for the preliminary competition at Dallas College Richland Campus. Live rounds will be livestreamed, and eight semi-finalists will perform 30-minute recitals.
On June 24, three finalists will perform with the orchestra conducted by guest conductor Tong Chen.
“We do provide room and board and travel for those who are returning to play with the orchestra,” McKay said. “They get a lot of good experience with the orchestra and the conductor.”
It will be a new concert experience for McKay.
“I’ll probably be attending,” McKay said. “It will be the first time that we’ve presented a DCS concert with a guest conductor.”
The winner of the competition will get a concert engagement with Dallas Chamber Symphony. The audience will also be able to vote for its favorite pianist.
“I probably won’t be allowed to vote on the audience favorite award,” McKay said.
Performed at the Sammons Center for the Arts in Dallas April 29-30, Avant Chamber Ballet’s season finale is an homage is Serge Diaghilev and his company, Ballet Russes.
“Diaghilev is best known for commissioning new works in one-act formats with new music, choreography, and costumes that were known for pushing boundaries," said Katie Puder, the company’s Artistic Director. "He believed that dance productions were the best way to combine all the arts - dance, music, story-telling, and visual art. Our modern world of dance was forever changed by him and opened up the idea that dance could live outside of full-length fairytales and tell any kind of story or be plotless for the sake of the art itself."
The program includes Jeux, a piece originally created for the Ballet Russe. Fernanda Oliveira is choreographing Jeux for Avant Chamber Ballet as her second assignment for the company.
“Fernanda is an amazingly talented choreographer and an effortless storyteller through dance," Puder said. "I have wanted to commission a new work from her since her last and this ballet seemed a perfect fit as an interpretation of the original story of a love triangle seen as a game or sport."
A Soldier’s Tale is Puder’s new production of Igor Stravinsky’s theatrical work.
“My new ballet, A Soldier's Tale, is composed by Stravinsky who was an important composer for the Ballet Russe," Puder said. "He composed it to be fully acted and danced with narration and lends itself to the theatrical dance storytelling in the legacy what Diaghilev pioneered."
The work is a collaboration between the dancers, MAKE Trio and a narrator.
“It was created with a narration originally and creates a different world from our normal production where dancers only use their body as their ‘voice'," Puder said. "For this production, all the company dancers are part of the narration so it's something we haven't ever done before at ACB combined expressing with our body and our voice."
Performing at the Sammons Center for the Arts gives the audience a more intimate experience.
"It's a perfect venue for a show like this and will make the audience feel like they are part of the action," Puder said. "I also love being able to talk directly to the audience before the ballets and explaining what they are going to see. Then after the show, we have a little reception with drinks and food, and we have real conversations. Ballet can sometimes be a bit intimidating to someone if they are new to it, but these kinds of shows teach people a new way of looking at dance and also validates their personal reactions to the show. There is no wrong way of reacting to a ballet and I think that's what I love about getting the audience's feedback after."
Avant Chamber Ballet is preparing to celebrate its tenth anniversary with a one night only performance on October 15 at Moody Performance Hall.
“Ten years ago, we were just a few dancers and musicians who wanted to create a few shows for our own enjoyment and fulfillment without any budget or support," Puder said. "From there we have turned into a full-time company with hired dancers from all across the country doing repertoire that any ballet company would be proud to present. I have heard that it takes ten years to build a dance company and it's really true. We are finally artistically and technically where I want to be and it's a joy to direct all our artists. For this next season we are continuing our mission of performing with live music and creating new works while also bringing back some of the audience favorites from the last ten years."
Following a season of record-breaking attendance and revenue, McKay is eager to see what the future holds for Dallas Chamber Symphony.
"It’s been a great season, honestly. It’s been a very challenging environment to work in, no doubt about it," McKay said. "Everything is more expensive; people’s schedules are far more complicated. There have been many, many challenges, but the really wonderful thing about this season is just how strong the audience has been. Everything is moving in the right direction. I’m very optimistic about our future.”