Choreographer Deanna Carter ended up having to give geography lessons over the weekend to newfound fans of Ballet Quad-Cities in New York City.
“People caught me in the lobby and said, ‘Where’s the Quad-Cities?’ ” she said Wednesday. “I had so many people (asking).”
Carter was one of five choreographers whose work was chosen for Ballet Builders, an annual showcase of new and emerging dance talent. Carter was the only Midwesterner and the lone female chosen. Eight dancers from Ballet Quad-Cities performed her 15-minute work “Ash to Glass” at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theatre in Manhattan.
“I also had very great feedback from the people in the field. Very famous people stopped me to tell me the choreography was gorgeous, that the company danced beautifully and they liked that the company has a look that’s unique, that’s different from the New York companies,” said Carter, who also teaches ballet at the University of Iowa.
“Ash to Glass” will be performed again next weekend at the Capitol Theatre in Davenport as part of a program headlined by a Carter-choreographed version of “Carmen.”
About 200 choreographers competed to be the five chosen for Ballet Builders, but there was no competition once the dancers got to New York.
“So many people were surprised to see the level of quality presented by Ballet Quad-Cities,” Carter said. “It’s a starting point for them to become recognized nationally.”
Ballet Quad-Cities artistic director Courtney Lyon said much of the excitement in creating “Ash to Glass” — for which rehearsals began in February — was in the journey as much as the destination.
“What our audiences will see next weekend is the end of that beautiful process of the development,” Lyon added.
Ballet Quad-Cities executive director Joedy Cook, who went with the dancers, said it gave national validation to the work that’s been done by the company.
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“It allowed the dancers and myself an up-close-and-personal experience of where they’re at, and let me tell you, they’re doing quite well. They held their own in New York City,” Cook added. “Everyone came home very confident that what we put onstage is first-class all the way. We deliver nothing but fine performances for our region.”
Carter said hitting the Big Apple is a dream come true for performers.
“In the end, going to New York is kind of like going to Mecca. It’s something that every student who reads Dance magazine dreams about. It’s the high point. It’s this unreachable goal for most people as students,” she said. “This company is seasoned professionals. They didn’t bat an eye. They may have felt nervous, but I didn’t notice.”
Carter said the company and her choreography were praised for incorporating modern dance moves into ballet. It is also noteworthy for its variety of body types and ethnicities.
“The region needs to know what a treasure they have in this company. It’s not like every other cookie-cutter ballet company in America,” Carter said. “It is unique.”