Artistic Director Tyrone Brooks celebrates his ninth season with the Tallahassee Ballet This year. This step comes right after another: Brooks turned 60 last summer.
“The journey never ends,” Brooks remarks. “You are constantly learning because your environment is changing, your world is changing, the community as a whole and culture is changing. “
Thinking back to his successful ballet career, which began at the Dance Theater in Harlem as a principal dancer, to his role now as educator and artistic director, he is optimistic about what the future holds for Tallahassee Ballet.
“We don’t realize the impact of a night out and what it takes to make it happen,” recalls Brooks, who says the company is looking forward to taking the stage at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall after a hiatus. a year and a half. “We have all learned from this pandemic. We don’t take things for granted. As a phoenix rises from its ashes, there is a need and a desire for the Tallahassee Ballet to exist.
The Tallahassee Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” will feature a live orchestra this year, bringing together music and dance for the holiday season. The performances will take place on December 18 and 19, with a special performance for children on Saturday at 10:30 am.
Brooks notes that the choreography of Kathryn Karrh Cashin, performance director and resident choreographer of the ballet for over 30 years, continues to be breathtaking in its performance.
His favorite part of the ballet remains the snow scene towards the end of the first act – he marvels at everything from the costumes to the soft snowflakes falling on the dancers at the end of the act.
Ready for orchestra, action
“It’s been a year since we last did The Nutcracker and people are eager to come out and see it,” says Brooks. “Hear an orchestra and feel that energy. It’s the energy of the Tallahassee Ballet and what we bring to the community. Our aim is to always present quality.
The Nutcracker ballet is a staple in most company repertoires, especially in December. Brooks’ guest has starred in several performances of The Nutcracker over the years, including playing the Horseman Dancing with the Sugar Plum Fairy, as well as the Spanish variation of the second act.
For Brooks, ballet is at the heart of architecture. His goal as artistic director has been to elevate and introduce new architects into the company’s repertoire – extending beyond classical ballet and featuring choreographers who work within neoclassical and contemporary vocabularies.
Highlights include the hosting of guest artist Christopher Huggins, former member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who has created original works for and about the company.
Expanding diversity, looking to the future
“My goal was to bring the institution into the 21st century in terms of what the dance world is looking for,” says Brooks. “If we prepare artists to go out into the world and compete, that meant changing the repertoire to diversify. I want something that is going to be created on the dancers and that will challenge them.
While always seeking to broaden the horizons of his dancers, Brooks is a “back to basics” champion when it comes to improving dance technique and becoming an artistically expressive performer. He credits his mentor and former founder and director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Arthur Mitchell, for instilling this philosophy.
While preparing lesson plans, Brooks looks at what will be performed on stage and works backwards from there. Instead of focusing on tricks, he prefers to focus lessons on the basic steps needed to perform a specific choreography and accomplish it at a high level of performance.
“There for a purpose”
“Dancers think you need high legs and pretty feet to perform,” says Brooks. “No, you don’t. It’s the passion and what you bring to the table. It is my responsibility as artistic director to nurture and bring out certain qualities that I see. Every dancer at the Tallahassee Ballet is there for a purpose because there is something that I have seen that made them different.
Brooks cares deeply about his students and the members of his company. Before starting the class or going on stage, he brings the dancers together in a circle to set a clear intention for the day.
Brooks says his responsibility as a principal is to focus on three main pillars for student growth and development: education, artistic excellence and social conscience.
Often times this means discussing and contemplating current events as a way to set an intention for a class or performance. In the wake of the recent Michigan school shooting, Brooks asked his classes to take a moment of silence and send positive thoughts out into the world. During the first exercise on the ballet barre, he encouraged everyone to “fold for peace”.
Brooks remembers the words to a gospel song his mother sang to him: “May the work I did speak for me.”
This sentiment continues to serve as the basis for every step he has taken with the business. He has seen many students grow up, start families, embark on new careers and is proud of them for what they have accomplished.
“Coming back to the studio has been so therapeutic for me and the dancers,” says Brooks. “They’ve been through a lot and I’m making an effort to mentally stimulate them in a positive way. They are young minds and if they are not mentally healthy they will not be physically. It’s very important to have a balance in the studio. Yeah, let’s get the job done, but it’s good to laugh and be real people too.
If you are going to
What: The Nutcracker by Tallahassee Ballet LIVE
When: 10:30 a.m. (children’s show) 7:30 p.m., Saturday Dec. 18 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday Dec. 19
Or: Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, 222 Copeland Street
Cost: Ticket prices vary
Contact: For more information call 850-224-6917 or visit tallahasseeballet.org.
Amanda Sieradzki is the feature film writer for the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the umbrella agency for arts and culture in the Capital Region (www.tallahasseearts.org).
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