A strongly conventional, classical-minded audience supports the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. The current artists-in-residence at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, sculptor Justin Perlman and performance artist Adelka Polak, are contemporary artists. My students from the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance have a strong classical foundation in ballet balanced with experience in modern and contemporary dance, including exposure to contemporary composition and improvisation. I guess the biggest question for me going into this project was whether the gap between the symphony’s classical paradigm and the artists’ contemporary paradigm would be difficult to bridge.
|Rehearsal with Adelka at RCD|
However, I have to add to this equation that the Music Director of the symphony, while classically grounded, is very forward thinking and open to bringing a traditional organization like a symphony orchestra into 21st century relevance. Like ballet and opera, live orchestras struggle with an aging audience. But the willingness and openness of maestro Jerry Steichen, Gina Wilson of the symphony, and Rachel Valpone of the guild proved that new and interesting collaborations across artistic generations and traditions are not only possible but also necessary.
For my students, the educational value of this experience was priceless. As Daniella P. pointed out after the concert, “This was pretty special because most dancers our age don’t get to perform with a full orchestra.”
From my perspective, not only performing with an orchestra but also the chance to work in a more contemporary rehearsal process, perform in work that included structured improvisation, and participate in what Adelka Polak calls “Revolutionary Performance” is, unfortunately, rare for high school students. I feel extremely proud of my students for their maturity and openness throughout all the rehearsals and the performance.
I don’t have a video to share but I did want to give a shout out to all of those involved and express my appreciation for their insight, vision, and courage.