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L.a. Chamber Ballet To Appear At Saddleback

May 16, 1986|CHRIS PASLES

"Small Is Beautiful" is a philosophy that the Los Angeles Chamber Ballet takes to heart.

The eight-member company--which will perform Saturday night at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo--was formed specifically to capitalize on the advantages of working in a smaller scale, according to artistic directors Victoria Koenig and Raiford Rogers, who formed the company five years ago.

"Raiford and I made a deliberate decision when we formed the company to focus on individual dancers and their individual contributions rather than on large-scale movements like those done by a corps de ballet," Koenig said in a recent phone interview.

"For me, the most moving moments I've ever experienced in dance have always been the result of a solo artist in a particular dance. So we decided that the best way to develop that would be a chamber ensemble."

Added Rogers: "We are very much like a chamber orchestra in the sense that each member is essentially a soloist and a very important member of the company.

"In the large, major companies, you have a well-defined hierarchy--the corps, and many lesser and more important dancers. Here every dancer is important."

The decision to stay small has had a number of attractive practical consequences, Koenig said.

"Our size makes us attractive to communities that cannot afford to book large companies," she said.

"In a 400- to 500-seat setting, where major companies could not perform comfortably, we can show ourselves beautifully."

For the first few years, however, it was touch and go for the company, which would hire specific dancers only for specific--and sporadic--local performances. That arrangement turned out to work very well for them, however, so they continue to use it.

"But nevertheless all our dancers are trained in traditional, classical ballet and have had major professional experience," said Rogers, whose own background includes training in the Netherlands, where he founded the Amsterdam Youth Ballet and choreographed its work.

Current company members include:

--Koenig, a Los Angeles native who has been a member of the Eliot Feld Ballet in New York.

--Lesli Wiesner (a Fullerton resident), who was a principal dancer with the Los Angeles Ballet.

--Kristine Soleri, formerly with American Ballet Theatre.

--Rocker Verastique, who dances in the TV series "Fame" and also has worked with Eliot Feld.

"What we have is a working pool of dancers," Koenig said. "The essential nucleus has remained pretty much the same over three years."

The company reached a turning point, Rogers said, with its splashy full-length production of "The Little Prince" (based on the Antoine de Saint-Exupery book), which had its debut in February in Los Angeles.

"This is the first year that our budget went over $100,000," Rogers said. "That is still very, very small. But we are solvent. We don't owe anybody any money." Funds comes from private, corporate and government sources, Rogers said.

In addition, the company is performing more regularly, and it is now making its first tour--at a cost of $25,000. Other stops include the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Pepperdine University and Rolling Hills Estates. For its performance Saturday at Saddleback, the college is paying the company about $4,000.

Works on the program include two season premieres: "Liberty," choreographed by Patrick Franz, a former principal dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, and Rogers' "Stone or Star."

Rogers characterized "Liberty" as "a celebration of artistic freedom--a driving, powerful work."

He called his "Stone or Star," which is based on the "Blue Danube" waltz, a "low-calorie piece, an attempt to do a little fun and take a fresh look at a musical piece we've heard a million times."

Rogers' "Wishes and Turns" and Earnest Morgan's "Hawaiian Suite" will complete the program.

Plans for the company include three seasons a year, plus a Christmas production of "The Little Prince," which Rogers describes as "our 'Nutcracker.' "

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