YaleUndergraduate Ballet Company

“A gang that don’t own the street is nothin’!”

This quote from West Side Story appeared on the backdrop as Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company dancers emerged in flannels and jeans at the Off-Broadway Theater on Nov. 6 and 9. Company members also danced against bare trees, warped New York City buildings and moonlit beaches.

Karen Jiang ’21, co-president of YBC, said this show used ballet “to complement and further deepen our understanding of another form of art.”

“The Moving Picture,” a two-act show in which company members danced exclusively to songs from movies, was YBC’s first show of the academic year. It was also the first time in YBC history that the company invited a guest choreographer. Guest choreographer Miriam Mahdaviani previously danced and choreographed works for the New York City Ballet and was invited to choreograph the show as part of the 50WomenatYale150 celebration of women in the arts.

The art grant that funded the production was offered by Yale College Arts at the outset of the fall semester. Another round of grants will be offered in the spring. In order to receive the grant, a project should be inspired by or affiliated with the Women at Yale celebration and should culminate in a free performance or exhibition.

“This show is one of our strongest,” Olivia Belliveau ’20, a member of YBC, said. “We all tried to make dances that are very cinematic and very high-energy.”

The Off-Broadway Theater was packed to capacity with an energetic audience that reacted to specific dancers, movements and quotes.

Yet no singular emotion prevailed in the program — instead, the show featured many tonal shifts. Rachel Bitutsky ’23, who performed in two dances, spoke about the contrast between them.

“‘La La Land’ is super whimsical and lovely and cute, and I love being flirtatious with the audience,” Bitutsky said. “‘Elegy for Time’ is a darker piece and shows the more serious side of ballet.”

A key element of “The Moving Picture” took place behind the scenes. The Women at Yale Arts grant supported YBC in inviting Mahdaviani to choreograph the final piece, titled “Take Flight.”

Mahdaviani’s presence on the show was particularly important to YBC, a predominantly female company, the ballet company’s members told the News. Choreography is a historically male-dominated field, and YBC’s dances are all choreographed by women in a conscious effort to honor female artists. Inviting a female guest choreographer further enhanced their artistic process and mission, they said.

“It’s such a unique experience to get to be part of a choreographer’s artistic process,” Jiang said. “Over the course of many rehearsals, Ms. Mahdaviani was able to figure out our individual strengths and play to them while creating our solos.”

Jiang added that the collaboration speaks to how far the company has come since its inception.

The Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company was founded in the spring of 2011.

Ella Goldblum | ella.goldblum@yale.edu