Ballet Des Moines To Begin Unusual Season

Des Moines Ballet hopes these costumes will inspire the community to mask up themselves. Jami Milne, the company’s creative director, designed and photographed the masks, here shown on dancers Bobbie Lynn Kandravi and Logan Hillman.

Writer: Allaire Nuss
Ballet companies across the country have canceled their upcoming seasons because of the pandemic, but Ballet Des Moines has decided to move forward in an unconventional way.

The 2020-2021 season, aptly titled “Resilience,” will feature three full-length productions produced and distributed through a partnership between Ballet Des Moines and Iowa PBS. The performances will be recorded and distributed online without a paywall; the broadcast dates have not been set yet.

Perhaps most notable is the incorporation of beautiful, intricate masks worn by dancers during performances. “The masks were developed with that resiliency in mind, creating beauty and inspiration during a pandemic and keeping the arts and artists alive,” says Jami Milne, the company’s creative director.

Milne designed the masks herself, with the goal of keeping dancers safe while adding a visually stunning feature. “We as artists want to convey the importance of putting that mask on,” Milne says. “The sooner people mask up, the sooner we can imagine being able to perform on a stage again.”

Six dancers will take the (virtual) stage this year: three returning artists and three new performers. The works featured in the season’s programs will include, among others, a world premiere by guest choreographer Ryan Nye, ballet master with the Oklahoma City Ballet; “Fly Me to the Moon,” a collaboration with Max Wellman and the Des Moines Big Band highlighting the music of Frank Sinatra;  “Padam Padam,” with choreography by Serkan Usta, Ballet Des Moines’ artistic director; and a world premiere production of “Peter and the Wolf” in collaboration with the Belin Quartet.

The dancers have taken precautions to ensure their involvement in the upcoming season; the ballet company’s safety measures include closed-door rehearsals and no outside visitors. “This is their profession and their livelihood, so the dancers take this very seriously,” Milne says. “[The dancers are] always masking up when they’re not in the studio, limiting exposure in every way possible.

“Art feels like a sense of survival,” Milne adds. “It’s a way that we escape, it’s a way that we cope, it’s a way we come together and celebrate. I think it’s been so easy to take things like that for granted when there’s never a threat that they will disappear.”

Learn more about Ballet Des Moines’ 2020-2021 season here.

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