Romeo & Juliet Premiere

West Seattle Herald: At the heart of Romeo and Juliet: City Opera Ballet produces a new, intimate take on the classic tragedy

The creaky, old Value Village off Pike St. on Capitol Hill may have been gutted and closed to the public, but the building itself still shows signs of life. Upstairs, where the men’s and children’s sections once resided, the scratched wood floors have been tiled over with large, black, vinyl mats. Here, every Wednesday, ballerinos and ballerinas wearing long johns and knee socks pounce, pirouette, and plié. They are rehearsing for City Opera Ballet’s original production of Romeo and Juliet, which is unlike any take on the classic tragedy that you’ve seen before. 

 

Read the full article here! 

 

Bellevue Reporter: All-new ballet score reinvents classic tale of love in Bellevue production

The region’s oldest ballet company is taking on “Romeo and Juliet,” the classic tale of love, family strife and grief with a cast of local dancers and a new score — one of the first to be produced for the play in decades.
“The family is really important to me. So much of the plot comes from the families, their expectations and emotions,” Willett said. “The play even starts out, ‘Two households, both alike in dignity.’ In the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s version, they die and it’s curtain down. In the text, the families reconcile at the end … At the end of the day, they both lost a child.”

Read the full article here!

 

 

Renton Reporter: City Opera Ballet's Spring Rep.

This weekend, I will be presenting a scene of Romeo and Juliet in City Opera Ballet's Spring Repertory program, Opera+Ballet in the City, April 15th-16th, at the Theater at Meydenbauer Center in downtown Bellevue, Washington. Learn more details about the show from the Renton Reporter article, featured below!

Dancers David Strong & Chessa Chalmers in Amber Willett's  Romeo&Juliet,  Photo by Sampson Alvarado

Dancers David Strong & Chessa Chalmers in Amber Willett's Romeo&Juliet, Photo by Sampson Alvarado

 

City Opera Ballet's executive director is calling the performance company's spring repertory a salute to Bellevue's rising skyline and, from the looks of the performance lineup, Mary Ellen Hundley aims to pay homage with a glimpse into the company's future.
"Just Look Up!: Opera + Ballet in the City," staging April 15-16 at The Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, will preview operatic performances from three future seasons, as well as contemporary and classic dance from several prominent Northwest directors and choreographers.
Read the full article here! 

Tickets for Opera+Ballet here! 

RESTART: Dancing for Recovery

Recently, I had the privilege of performing with Drybones Artist Collective: a collaboration of professional artists passionate about social justice that utilizes theater as a platform to bring about positive change in our culture and community.

Our latest show, RESTART, served as a benefit in donating a portion of our ticket sales to Seattle's Recovery Cafe, a wonderful organization that helps people struggling with substance abuse and addiction. 

Many things in life cannot be put into words and so we use dance to communicate those things that lay deep beneath the surface. The choreography in RESTART explored the complexities of addiction and the journey toward healing. And while each dance presented the unique work of a different artist (choreographers Megan Becker, Victoria Gutierrez, Katy Hagelin, and Angela Robinson), they all seemed to agree about one thing: that it isn't easy. 

One of the three pieces I was in included RELINQUISH/VANQUISH, by Katy Hagelin, in which I was the character in question. I lay isolated on the floor, while a quartet of dancers moves about the stage. I'm absorbed in my own anguish, and we don't seem to see each other, until one of them notices me, and comes down to my level. We do floor work, in unison, as though she is trying to understand me before she helps me, then pulls me up off the floor. 

Eventually she asks something of me: to give it up, whatever "it" is. I thought of a few things when trying to relate to this piece, be it an addiction, depression, or giving something up in life that just isn't meant to be yours for now. I pull something from my side to give to her, but she's knows it's not enough, and slaps my hand away, as if to say, "No, I need all of it." The thing about healing is, that you can't just give a piece to it, you have to commit to it. 

I labor to pull something from deep with in myself, clawing it from my stomach. It's so deep inside, it's so hard to let go, but once I finally do, once I finally clean it out, a weight is lifted. I breath, and proceed to dance fully for the first time, as if beginning to see more clearly. I join the other dancers, we dance together. 

One thing that seems to be essential in recovery is community, we cannot do it on our own. We need others to support us, to hold us accountable, to encourage us, to remind us why we are doing this. Why the alternative isn't better. Of course, sometimes we don't have the strength to go all the way at once, it takes time and patience, and getting through on a daily basis. 

The piece BUTTERFLY, also by Katy Hagelin, explores 4 different phases: the long wait in the cocoon, waiting to be born, learning to use your wings, and at last, when you can fly. Recovering from anything is a process. Becoming new is a process. And like the butterfly trying to break out of the cocoon, it doesn't happen over night. There will be winter, and there will be rain, before spring and new life. 

In this video, Johann Hari says, "Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy, we will bond with the people around us. But when we can't, because we are traumatized, isolated, or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that is happening all around us. The pathway out of unhealthy bonds is to form healthy bonds."

The Recovery Cafe aims to help people form healthy bonds, so they can break free from the bonds of addiction. Our hope is that our art will create understanding and compassion for those who struggle with addiction, and be, if even a small part, of the change in the world. 


Whim W'him: Olivier Wever's "The Sofa"

Amber Willett and Jim Kent in Olivier Wever's "The Sofa"

Amber Willett and Jim Kent in Olivier Wever's "The Sofa"

Upon returning from Germany, I danced as a guest artist with Whim W'him, directed by Olivier Wevers, former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer.  The production "Crave More" included new works by Wevers, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and Andrew Bartee. 

I performed in "The Sofa", which was created for Grand Rapids Ballet in 2012, which Wevers was now setting on his own company. 

 

 

 

You can read more about my time with Whim W'him here:

Behind the Scenes by Victoria Farr Brown

 

 

Seattle Times Review of Crave More

Set to a Mozart piano concerto, “The Sofa” is Wevers at his frothiest best. It’s full of little betrayals, teary breakdowns, insouciant flourishes and absent-minded reconciliations, all played out in zanily gymnastic duets (Bartee and Seefeldt have special fun with theirs). One key image is of lovers who keep joining in literally blinding embrace, as their tenderly caressing hands repeatedly flatten themselves on the faces of their paramours, making it impossible for them to see.

“The Sofa” is also a dazzling demonstration of how to create malleable space with mobile bodies, as Wevers serves up Mobius- strip patterns in dance. It’s rote by now to say the Belgium-born choreographer has a surrealist component to his imagination, but it’s true. Once again, the spirit of Magritte informs his work, as that sofa does things and goes places you don’t expect a sofa to go.

Read full review here

Performance Reviews of Clepsydra-Gezeiten

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Moved by Waves is a contemporary ballet suite, created by Amber Willett during her residency with Inztanz International Center for Dance,  in response to Virginia Woolf’s 1931 novella. The pieces are no illustrations or depictions of the story of Woolf’s book, but unique artistic responses to the tonal charge and imagistic force that another work prompts: The dancers are as detailed in the movement they’re creating as Woolf is in her depictions of the characters’ emotions. 

Clepsydra-Gezeiten (Waterclock & Tides), premiered at the Landestheater and Stadtmuseum in Tuebingen, Germany in July 2012. The dances were performed by 4 dancers, while 3 actors performed skits of scenes from the book that connected with Willett's choreography. 

 

 

Swabisches Tagblatt

Literary-inspired dance between art objects, flanked by some drama and reading: The ensemble of the International Centre for Dance (InzTanz) shows next week on three evenings the choreography "clepsydra" the American dancer and choreographer Amber Willett at the City Museum.

Read full review here

Ruetlinger General-Anzeiger

TUBINGEN. Four chairs, four dancers and an idea: with their piece "clepsydra" - Greek for tides - has staged an impressive dialogue between the arts in Tübingen City Museum on Thursday evening, the choreographer Amber Willett.

She has been guided by the poetic novella "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf. In this book, the development from childhood to adulthood is shown in experimental as well as poetic images. A lot of it takes place in the University from a setting that fits well with Tubingen, especially since a large part of the actors studied.A girl comes late to class, a little shy and clueless, while the other well on the questions of are teacher prepared. Three dancers sitting on the chairs, straight and stretch their arms in the air, while the fourth helpless herumstolpert between. The same scene represent Idil Ünver and Cheng Lay two floors up acting, whereas Leonid Koller mimes the enthusiastic students in the intermediate level, who wants his lover writing a letter. "What I am, I ask," he exclaims with sparkling eyes at the audience. At the end he gives his project after several failed attempts. Finally, tomorrow is indeed another day.

Read full review here

Swabisches Tagblatt (Review 2)

Garnished with beautiful Cradle, the industrial design of the exhibition is at the appropriate stage of the performance - and vice versa: The museum begins to breathe.

Read the full review here