There is no doubt that Thomas Mattingly, 22, who recently was promoted to soloist at Ballet West, has set quite a high bar with Prone, his world premiere choreographed piece that is the first-ever dance commission for the Utah Arts Festival.
The 11-minute work, which comprises three movements, is about the visceral emotionally-based addictions in relationships where alternating cycles of passive and aggressive feelings and behaviors paralyze, confront and compromise the individual’s capacity to express genuinely a meaningful sense of love. “I wanted to translate my own emotional experiences with relationships into physical movement that I think will resonate with the audience,” Mattingly explains.
For the project, he selected the dancers including Michael Bearden, Kate Crews, and Jacqueline Straughan of Ballet West and Caine Keenan of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Mattingly had initially conceptualized an aspect of Prone for Ballet West’s Innovations program earlier this year but knew the festival venue would give him the artistic capability to develop fully the piece where the beauty not only creates escape and pleasure for audience members but also challenges them to think about their own relationship experiences.
The dance commission represents a significant commitment by Utah Arts Festival organizers to bring ballet back to the four-day event. And, the program will be the first time that Ballet West dancers have been on a UAF stage in a decade.
The solo electric cello music by Matthew Schoening (known to Los Angeles and San Francisco audiences as Mr. Cello) also is new and it effectively situates the entire dramatic and emotional sphere in Mattingly’s original choreography – a potent reminder of just how captivating ballet really is. More about Schoening’s intriguing music, which uses live looping quite effectively, is available here.
Mattingly, who grew up in Ridgecrest, California – which sits at the gateway to Death Valley – knew by the age of nine that he wanted to be a ballet dancer. And his career catapulted quickly when he finished high school. In 2003, he began his training at the Virginia School of the Arts under the direction of the late Petrus Bosman and at graduation he received the prestigious Dame Margot Fonteyn Award for artistic excellence.
He earned his first professional contract with the summer Chautauqua Institution in New York. From there he moved on to the Richmond Ballet Company in Virginia and then on to Cincinnati before joining Ballet West in 2008. He was promoted to soloist this past spring.
Most recently, Mattingly performed Siegfried in Adam Sklute’s newly conceived and produced Swan Lake and El Capitan in George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes. Other notable roles include the Grand pas de deux in The Nutcracker, Caliban in Michael Smuin’s The Tempest, Athlete in Nijinska’s Les Biches, the title role in Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, Tybalt in Victoria Morgan’s Romeo and Juliet, Oberon in Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream, the soloist role in Glen Tetley’s Mythical Hunters, the second pas de deux in Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels, and a principal role in Val Caniparoli’s Violin.
As a choreographer, Mattingly is acutely sensitive to ballet’s unique challenge for audiences. On one hand, the choreographed movement on stage underscores the seemingly ethereal beauty and lightness of being in the dancers. On the other hand, ballet represents a powerfully raw sense of physical effort and intense training essential to communicating a delicate expression of beauty. From an aesthetic viewpoint, that balance is intensely appealing and opens easily the door for audiences to appreciate the ballet.
The program includes Voices, also choreographed by Mattingly, which features Ririe-Woodbury’s Caine Keenan. The music is Claude Debussy’s The Girl With The Flaxen Hair. Also featured on the bill is the classical Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, choreographed by Marius Petipa (1818-1910), known widely as the father of Russian ballet. Mattingly will perform with Sayaka Ohtaki, also from Ballet West.
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