Huntington, Ind.—The James Sewell Ballet of Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN) will perform an original adaptation of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors at Huntington College’s Merillat Centre for the Arts on Friday, November 19, at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets cost $13, $11, and $9, with special discounts for students and seniors. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (260) 359- 4261, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Merillat Centre for the Arts is located near the intersection of U.S. 24 and Guildford Street, on the campus of Huntington College, in Huntington, IN. (Virtual Reality Tour)
Amahl and the Night Visitors is the irresistible story of Amahl, a poor 12-year-old crippled shepherd boy who is dependent on a crude crutch. One night Amahl and his mother are visited by the three wise men, who are seeking lodging at his house during their star-led journey. The magi tell him of the remarkable child they have set out to see. Overwhelmed, Amahl offers them his crutch as a present to take to the child and in doing so suddenly recovers his ability to walk. The story’s themes of faith, forgiveness, healing, and compassion celebrate the soul of Christmas and are common to most of the world’s religions.
Conceived and choreographed by James Sewell, the production tells the story using several styles of movement, including a modest but interesting use of the visual/gestural style of American Sign Language. The choreographic combination of American Sign Language movement with traditional ballet provides appeal and meaning for both hearing and deaf audiences. Sewell has had a long-time interest in both Amahl and the possibilities of sign language. When a friend of Sewell’s pointed out the difficulties of watching a side-stage interpreter and center-stage action simultaneously, Sewell saw the marriage of American Sign Language and his choreography as a natural union to be enjoyed by hearing and hearing-impaired alike.
Established in New York, its home from 1990-1993, James Sewell Ballet has enjoyed a strong and growing audience since its move to the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. James Sewell Ballet has presented to audiences in more than 16 states and Bermuda. The Ballet has eight dancers: four men and four women. They move together on the stage with power and mutual trust. Sometimes, Sewell has the women catch and lift the men, or he’ll give the men steps requiring more grace than strength.
“It’s an extraordinary collection of dancers,” says Lou Fancher, one of the company’s dancers. “Each is very talented, and James uses them very well.”
James Sewell is a composer, a choreographer, and founding director of the acclaimed Twin Cities professional dance company, James Sewell Ballet. Since 1982, he has choreographed more than 45 ballets, including nine for which he composed the music. As a young boy interested in becoming a professional magician, his father told him that if he was really serious about magic, he ought to study movement and acting and voice. So Sewell enrolled in the Children’s Theatre School, where ballet was a required class – and magic abruptly fell by the wayside.
“I was nuts for ballet,” says Sewell. “Soon, I was taking 20 classes a week.”
A mere 18 months after his first ballet class, Sewell was in New York, taking summer study with American Ballet Theatre, where he worked with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. From there, Sewell joined Eliot Feld Ballet where he “learned a lot about the craft of choreography and about the value of creating an original vocabulary of movement.” He also began studying with David Howard, one of New York’s foremost teachers at that time. It was here that Sewell met Sally Rousse, who is now his wife and one of the members of his company.
“He was so good that he used to make me sick!” says Rousse of her husband. “When he dances, he does things that make your eyes open wider, as though you were only watching with your eyes half-closed before.”
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