After performing in Jerome Robbins’ NY Export: Opus Jazz in 2005, New York City Ballet soloists Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi were inspired to put the 1958 “ballet in sneakers” on film. Two years later, a movement from the piece, entitled “Passage for Two”, was filmed at the High Line shortly before it was closed for renovation in order to build the newly elevated park. The brief but beautifully shot excerpt, featuring New York City Ballet dancers Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall, was included in the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts’ 2008 exhibition celebrating the life and work of Jerome Robbins, and was also presented at the Guggenheim’s Works & Process series in January of 2008.
Last month, after years of planning and fundraising, the film was acquired by Channel Thirteen/WNET for its 2010 Great Performances/Dance in America series, which means it will be coming to televisions everywhere sometime in spring 2010! I most recently saw the ballet during NYCB’s 2008 spring season, and it seems natural to reinvent Opus Jazz with present-day NYC as a backdrop while preserving Robbins’ choreography and the lively jazz score by Robert Prince. With a cast of sixteen dancers from NYCB and the streets and buildings of New York as the set, the film has tremendous appeal and demonstrates how a timeless ballet can become more accessible and engaging to a younger, broader audience.
Filming is currently underway to complete the remaining four movements of the ballet. Check the film’s website for more information, photos, and video clips. Plus, you can read all about the filming process by following NYCB dancer Adam Hendrickson’s blog and becoming a fan of the film on Facebook. Just search for “Opus Jazz”.