To the Pointe

There are 2 performances occurring with ballet – in the pit, as well as on stage,

says Ramona Pansegrau, the music director and principal conductor for Kansas City Ballet and the guest Conductor for Giselle, Orlando Ballet’s inaugural performance at the new Steinmetz Hall. In the past, Ramona has worked with Orlando Ballet for the performances of Don Quixote, Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet.

Live music is crucial to a ballet performance,

“turn off the sound and see if the performance is as appealing” – small things like phrasing, breaths and tempos can all be adjusted to match the dancer when live music is used. She says, “think of it as wearing clothes that are too tight – you’re constricted, you can’t move or breathe, your artistry is put on the back burner in order just to get through the steps.  That is not what a dancer trains for their whole life to do – live music allows them to express not only their technique, but also their artistry – and that is what an audience wants to see.”

Having live music mixed with live stage presence leaves the audience inspired and brings the movements of each dancer to life – so getting to have it for Giselle is extra special! Giselle was one of the first true full length ballets, dating back to 1841 (181 years old!) and helped to establish many characteristics of what we now know as a traditional full length ballet.

Giselle has thematic material for the characters – this was a first.

As you watch, you will start to notice that as each character has their time on stage, a similar instrument and theme will be played to signify their presence. Prior to this, ballet was taken from the dance sections in operas, but Giselle was its own story, with its own music, composed by Adolphe Adam in Paris.

“It also is quite atmospheric – the sounds of church bells, the mysterious sounds of a graveyard portrayed in the lower register of the instruments” says Ramona. 

Plus, did you know Giselle’s “White Act” (ACT II) was the inspiration behind Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake?

When talking to Orlando Ballet’s new Artistic Director, Jorden Morris, he says that he feels as though “the audience feels the energy of the orchestra” and the enhancement of live musicians and their emotional energy put into the performance.

Steinmetz Hall was built to be one of the “world’s most acoustically perfect spaces,” so having a live orchestra when Giselle is premiered, will make a world of difference.

Since the music will be played by real people in real time as opposed to a recording where everything is exactly the same every time, the dancers must really pay attention when performing since things such as tempos can vary slightly in each show!

“An accomplished conductor knows how to bridge the two art forms and bring them together in uniform and harmony”, so having someone with as much experience and passion as Ramona, is going to help grow the symbiotic and synergistic relationship that is needed between an artistic director and conductor.

We also spoke with company dancer Hitomi Nakamura and guest dancer Christian Clark about how live music affects their performance. They both agreed that having live musicians brings a sense of humanity and soul into the performance. “It is a totally different feeling when you are dancing with live music. You feel their soul put into music and dancing to it is such a beautiful feeling” says Hitomi.

Orlando Ballet has not yet had the chance to perform this ballet with live music, so this is a huge step in which the audience will be able to feel the difference. The audience feels the energy and responds to live music in the same way the dancers do – they are captured by the beauty of the two art forms merging together that only a live performance can bring, both dancers say.


Jorden Morris: I play guitar and some piano, I just wish I had more time to play.

Hitomi Nakamura: I’ve always loved the sound of the saxophone and wish I could play it.

Christian Clark: I played Cello for a few years in high school and always wish I had stuck with it! 

Giselle will be Orlando Ballet’s inaugural performance in the new Steinmetz Hall from Feb 10-13th, generously funded by Laurence & Susan Costin with the live music performed by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.

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