Rhythm In The Dunes
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Cameron Smith
Alexandra Farber brings her ballet vision to life in the sands of West Texas
Last June, we met ballet dancer Alexandra Farber at the UNT Health Science Center Community Garden. The fledgling urban farmer was trying to make good use of her COVID lockdown by growing a few herbs and vegetables.
Like most of us, she thought she’d soon be back at work and onstage with fellow members of the Texas Ballet Theater. Instead, Farber found herself trying to stay in shape, taking online ballet classes and doing whatever she could to keep her creative juices flowing.
Farber also continued to work on her visual art. She modeled for local photographers, participated in podcasts and, yes, gardened a little at her Fort Worth apartment. “My lavender is doing really well after that cold snap,” she says.
When communities began to reopen this past spring, TBT performed a series of outdoor shows in Dallas.
But it was a project that she completed this past winter that really has her excited.
Farber and a few other TBT dancers — all women — completed a side project she had choreographed using music from Norwegian singer Kate Havnevik and an album called Melankton. “I’ve been listening to these tracks for 10 years. Her vocals are beautiful, the music is rhythmic and orchestral. The choreography starts in the head, but I write everything down on paper. Despite meeting via Zoom, we brought a beautiful piece to life.”
Farber paid to have costumes made and secured the rights to use the music. In looking for a location, she traveled to Monahans Sandhills State Park in West Texas. “I was thinking of White Sands in New Mexico because I wanted this otherworldly landscape for a background but found everything we needed at Monahans. It was closer and cheaper. When I called, the park superintendent answered and after hearing my plans and the small number of people involved, he said all we needed to do was pay the entry fee.”
The weather cooperated, save for the wind, which actually added to the ambiance of the project. They filmed it in one day and returned to Fort Worth with sand in their clothes but smiles on their faces.
Farber found the perfect platform for the piece, “The Way We Change,” thanks to a dancer friend in New York City whom she had worked with in Houston. Silken Kelly started a nonprofit, Contingent Ballet, during the pandemic to provide exposure for dancers to nontraditional audiences. “She loved the work and now it has its premiere in July,” says Farber, whose goal is to make sure the dancers make a little money (she’s already covered costumes and music) and to celebrate their talent and passion.
“I’m happy to see it finally come to life. It was totally worth it if it touches one person and makes them look at dance differently,” says Farber, who is scheduled go back to work in September. “For me, it’s never going to feel like ‘normal’ again. I feel like a different human, person and dancer, one who’s able to move in any direction.”
On New Ground, 6 p.m. July 9 Alexandra Farber’s “The Way We Change” features four female solos plus a final movement by the quartet. Each movement loosely depicts human struggle with answers found inside each individual. Tickets, contingentballet.org; the virtual show is available to ticket holders until July 16 after its premiere.
Choreography Alexandra Farber
Dancers Celeste Gaiera, Laura Gruener, Cara Shipman, Katelyn Rhodes
Music Kate Havnevik, from album Melankton
Videography and editing Cameron Smith
Costumes Katelyn Clenaghan
Texas Ballet Theater Season packages are on sale for the 2021-22 season, which kicks off with The Nutcracker this November; texasballettheater.org