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Get ready to Dance with Duke Ellington

Around Town

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The New York State Ballet will present “Dancing with Duke Ellington” February 14 and 15 in Rochester at the Hochstein Performance Hall.

Both performances will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Ballet Master Robert Royce, dancer Jesse Tidquist, and Music Director Jared Chase discussed the upcoming performance Wednesday during News 8 at Noon.

“Duke Ellington had such a huge career that spanned so many decades and he wrote all this music that was just joyous and also just beautiful love songs,” said Royce. “These songs that make these dancers really bring out their own love for the art and for each other. It’s been a blast choreographing.”

The performance will marry ballet with jazz and so much more. “Ballet has evolved so much,” explained Royce. “Contemporary ballet encompasses all kinds of dance and for this program, there’s a lot of jazz in this program. There’s a lot of really strong ballet work, but the biggest part of this is really bringing these songs to life.”

For Tiquist, preparing the performance has been challenging, but also freeing. “It has been hard work for sure,” she said. “But this is one of the most fun shows that I think I’ve done in a long time. It’s very jazzy, very sassy, very sultry at times, but also very human. You could actually put yourself into it instead of being, you know, a queen or anything that’s loftier like in ‘Nutcracker,’ any of those. This is definitely more grounded, which I enjoy very much.”

Ellington’s prolific career offered Chase fertile ground to select the program’s music. “Rob and I started collaborating on this last summer and we chose some great pieces that I think would be great for all types of audiences,” he said. “We wanted to honor this great composer, choosing some pieces that people would know like ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing,’ and ‘Satin Doll,’ and Take the A Train.’ But we have this great singer that we’re going to be working with, Jessica Ann Best, and we had some songs that we wanted her to sing like ‘Something to Live For’ and ‘Lush Life’ and some wonderful pieces like that or ‘Duke’s Place.’ And then we’ve got some pieces that for the jazz lover in Rochester, and I know we have many of them, we want to come out and hear pieces like his ‘Diminuendo Crescendo in Blue,’ which is a great piece of jazz legacy that helped resurrect his career in the fifties or when he played it at the Newport Jazz Festival. So we’ve got pieces like ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’ and things like ‘Caravan’ that people will know.”

For tickets to “Dancing with Duke Ellington” call (800) 838-3006 or visit the New York State Ballet website.

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