Richmond Ballet News

Studio Three Marks Final Farewell for Lauren Fagone While City Life Premieres

March 29th, 2016

Studio Three Closes the 2015-16 Season for Richmond Ballet


 Richmond Ballet is pleased to announce that the 2015-16 season will close with a world premiere work as well as a returning favorite, as Australian choreographer Mark Annear premieres his new piece, City Life, and Salvatore Aiello’s deeply evocative and powerful rendering of the ballet, The Rite of Spring, takes over the Studio Theatre stage in honor of dancer Lauren Fagone, who is set to retire at the conclusion of the season. Running from April 12-17, 2016, this final installment of the 2015-16 Studio Series will celebrate Ms. Fagone’s 14-year career with the professional company during which she has become known as one of the organization’s most interesting and beloved dancers.

With its pounding and electrifying score, and controversial storyline, The Rite of Spring – the groundbreaking collaboration between Vaslav Nijinsky and Igor Stravinsky – provoked riots in Paris when it originally premiered in 1913, shocking audiences with its modern atheistic, chilling finale, and trembling sound, yet it would forever alter the course of music and dance history. Inspired by ancient Russian folklore, The Rite of Spring is a work of both dance and music that reckons with pagan cycles of renewal, tinged with sacrifice.

IMG_8836editSalvatore Aiello’s 1993 earthy and primal rendering of the infamous ballet retains the essence of the original while inspiring utter abandon and release among the dancers who are transformed through the sound of Stravinsky’s rhythms and musical moods. “The Rite of Spring is probably the most sensational piece of music ever written by Stravinsky…the power of the music, the power of the orchestration, [and] the complexity of the music is really phenomenal. It’s very powerful, it’s very intricate,” Mr. Aiello told WTVI PBS Charlotte in 1993, and it is from the powerful score that he developed the undulating and challenging choreography. Mr. Aiello’s The Rite of Spring also draws heavily from ancient pagan culture, adding that “its basic concept is about ritual, is about the Earth, preparing the soil, about the primitive rituals of a very basic, simple people. It’s about a sacrifice, a woman gives her life.”

Under the care of Jerri Kumery, Ballet Master at Richmond Ballet – who collaborated with Mr. Aiello during the ballet’s creation – this powerful version of The Rite of Spring radiates with an undeniable energy that is colored by waves of frightening intensity and tantalizing seductiveness. Ms. Kumery, who also serves as the curator of the Salvatore Aiello Trust, which has preserved Mr. Aiello’s works since his death in 1995, runs rehearsals with a very special attention to detail and emotion, balancing moments of explosive power and internal strife with finesse.

After successes on the main stages of the Virginia Arts Festival and Carpenter Theatre in 2013, Richmond Ballet’s intimate Studio Theatre environment will inspire a new reading of the masterwork and its ritual, performed at the altar of rebirth.  “I’m actually very excited to bring The Rite of Spring into the Studio Theatre,” explained Richmond Ballet Artistic Director Stoner Winslett. “When you are up close and right next to the dancers, it’s such a different feeling. To see it in the big theatre with the orchestra is an overwhelming spectacle. But in the Studio Theatre, it becomes more about the connection with the artists on the stage because of your proximity, and more about how the choreography works.”

As with most versions of The Rite of Spring, the story follows a central female character, known as The Chosen One in Mr. Aiello’s production, who is ritually sacrificed by her fellow tribesmen in an effort to appease the gods and promise a good harvest. “One of the reasons why I wanted to bring The Rite of Spring back now is because one of the women who has done the Chosen One role is Lauren Fagone,” explained Ms. Winslett. “Lauren has been in the Company for 14 years, and is a much-noted dancer. Everyone knows Lauren’s gorgeous red hair and her supple movement, and she’s particularly good in this role.”

Indeed, Ms. Fagone, known to most throughout the organization as simply “Fagone,” is much-loved by Richmond Ballet Fagoneaudience base. Originally hailing from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, she received her early training through programs at The School of American Ballet, Chautauqua Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. She danced as an apprentice with North Carolina Dance Theatre and also studied at Indiana University before accepting a two-year apprenticeship with Richmond Ballet, after which she was promoted into the professional company. Ms. Fagone traveled with Richmond Ballet on each of the Company’s international tours as well as on the Company’s trips to the Joyce Theater in New York City and to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Recently, Ms. Fagone helped to stage Ma Cong’s Lift The Fallen on Guongzhou Ballet, while authoring major grants for Richmond Ballet’s Development department. Ms. Fagone also teaches regularly at Carytown’s Barre Boutique. Imbued with a humorous energy as well as a tremendous elegance, Ms. Fagone’s passion and respect for her artform is evident both when she speaks and when she dances. Moreover, Ms. Fagone’s soulful devotion to her craft has helped her to create some of the Company’s most memorable characters, while originating roles in many of Richmond Ballet’s most popular commissions.

“I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded, on a daily basis, by artists I admire and trust, and who ignite in me a sense of wonder,” said Ms. Fagone. “I’m proud to be a part of not just a company, but also a family, where I’m continually captivated by the compassion and generosity of those around me. I have lived in an environment where my artistry has been nurtured at every turn, and I am grateful for each unrepeatable moment, each inimitable performance, and each irreplaceable partnership. Reflecting on my career with Richmond Ballet allows me to relive some of the loveliest and most memorable experiences of my life. My retirement isn’t a sad occasion; I’m celebrating my great fortune to have been able to call myself a dancer and an artist for 14 years. I will always be a dancer; I will always carry that gift with me. I’ve become who I was meant to be through dancing, and even though I’m leaving the stage, Richmond Ballet will forever be my home, my heart, and my family. Dancing has been the greatest reward, and I am truly fulfilled.”

“The reason a person commits to a professional career varies from dancer to dancer. Some hope to contribute to the legacy of the art form in some lasting way, be it through original roles or memorable performances,” wrote fellow dancer Maggie Small. “Some hope to share impactful moments with an audience, whether they are uplifting, cathartically haunting, or a demonstration of exalted liberation of the spirit. Some dancers dance because it nourishes their bodies and souls in a way that nothing else can. Lauren Fagone is the unique kind of dancer who can be characterized by all of these. I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to watch her, learn from her, and dance alongside her while she has cultivated all of these traits throughout her career. Her absence will be palpable for seasons to come, but the lasting impact she will leave on Richmond Ballet, and the ballet world as a whole, will be felt by generations of audiences and budding ballerinas. I can think of few dancers as original, aware of herself, and giving of her soul as ‘Fagone.’ We are all lucky to have witnessed the growth and practice of such a beautiful artist.”

Richmond Ballet also is proud to continue its relationship with Mark Annear, Head of Outreach and Access at The Royal Ballet School in London, who will travel across the pond to set a new work for the professional company this month. Having choreographed extensively for the highly-acclaimed Australian Ballet and its school in his home country, Mr. Annear’s new ballet takes its inspiration from the fast-paced energy of life in the big city. “Living and working in London is so exciting,” explained Mr. Annear by email, “and I love visiting places like New York City, so these cities, their energy, and excitement will be very much in my mind when creating the work.”

In addition to the inspiration found within the unique rhythm of urban rituals and architectural forms, Mr. Annear’s music, ‘City Life’ by Steve Reich, has not only lent the piece its title, but its choreographic tone as well. “The music is very rhythmic and evocative and I love the way Reich uses everyday sounds as instruments within the piece,” he explained. “This is what first attracted me to it many years ago…It has taken maybe 15 years for me to have the opportunity to create the work, so I’m very excited about finally having the chance. The music suggests to me quite an angular look; this is influenced too by city streets and buildings. The dance vocabulary will be quite abstract, but I am aiming to [have the movement also] influenced by everyday movements and gestures, much as Reich used everyday sounds in the music. These won’t be literal but will hopefully influence the content of the piece.”

Mr. Annear first traveled to Richmond in the spring of 2014 for The Royal Ballet School’s Teacher Training Session and a series of master classes that took up residence at the Ballet’s downtown studios. With Mr. Annear eager to work with the professional company, and Ms. Winslett eager to embrace the Australian’s choreographic talents, Richmond Ballet finds another opportunity to build upon its relationship established with The Royal Ballet School ahead of the Company’s 2012 tour to London. “I was thrilled to be asked by Stoner to create a new work for the Company, particularly as she has given me the possibility to create a work that I have long wanted to do,” Mr. Annear added. “I had a wonderful experience working at The School of Richmond Ballet in 2014. At that time, I also had the pleasure of teaching company class which I really enjoyed. The Company, and all at Richmond Ballet and The School, are so warm and welcoming that I felt very much at home. The dancers are eager, creative, and energetic, and it will be a real pleasure to work with them more extensively this time.”

Mr. Annear seeks to use the creative talents found within the Ballet’s own walls to add costume and lighting elements to his world premiere. The duo of MK Stewart, Production Director and Lighting Designer, and Emily DeAngelis, Costume Director and Designer, return to bring Mr. Annear’s slick, monochrome vision to life. Fresh off a much-applauded collaboration on Edgar Zendejas’ Realms of Amber for Studio Two, Mr. Stewart’s lighting and Ms. DeAngelis’ costumes will reflect the energy of the streets and the unique rhythms of urban dwellers set against a backdrop of changing light meant to reflect the passage of hours within a day.



The Rite of Spring*

     Choreography by Salvatore Aiello  |  Music by Igor Stravinsky

City Life (World Premiere)

     Choreography by Mark Annear  |  Music by Steve Reich

Tuesday, April 12, 6:30 pm (Choreographers’ Club)

Wednesday, April 13, 2:00 pm and 6:30 pm

Thursday, April14, 6:30 pm

Friday, April 15, 6:30 pm

Saturday, April 16, 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm

Sunday, April 17, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm

Sunday, March 20, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm


Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre  |  407 East Canal Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219

Tickets start at $20.00. Tickets available at, by calling 1.800.514.3849, or through the Richmond Ballet Box Office at 407 E. Canal Street.


*The Rite of Spring contains mature subject matter. Not recommended for young audiences.




Feature Photo: Lauren Fagone in The Rite of Spring by Salvatore Aiello. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

Additional photos by Sarah Ferguson.

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