Festival Ballet Providence and RISD Museum Unite to Bring Art to Life in ‘Off the Wall’ Performance

The artistic collaboration will kick off Festival Ballet Providence's 2022-23 season.
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Courtesy of Festival Ballet Providence

For the first time ever, Festival Ballet Providence, New England’s second largest ballet company, is collaborating with the RISD Museum for the opening program of their 2022–23 season, Off The Wall. The program features a trio of new performances inspired by works from the RISD Museum collection, exploring and interpreting elements of visual art through dance. Off The Wall will take place at the Moses Brown School’s Woodman Center in Providence from October 21–23.

“I’ve always been a big proponent of arts institutions working with one another, sharing knowledge and creativity, and expanding the worlds of the audiences each serve,” says Kathleen Breen Combes, Festival Ballet Providence’s Director. “When I approached RISD Museum they were so generous in opening their collection to us and letting our choreographers explore this massive body of artwork.”

The three renowned choreographers behind the new works include Andrea Schermoly, Yusha–Marie Sorzano and Festival Ballet Providence’s very own artistic curator, Yury Yanowsky.

“RISD Museum has more than 100,000 items in the collection to inspire innovative creators across disciplines,” says Sarah Ganz Blythe, Interim Director of RISD Museum, adding, “I’m so thrilled that the choreographers were in conversation with our curators and able to explore the collection virtually and in person on their own. I am delighted with the works they selected.”

Schermoly, who is currently the resident choreographer for Louisville Ballet, has created works for many major companies. Her new work for Off the Wall was inspired by a vibrant 1981 abstract work called Gather by Bridget Riley, an English artist celebrated for her use of geometric patterns and colors. Meanwhile, Sorzano, who is currently a dancer with Camille A. Brown and Dancers, found inspiration from modernist painter Rufino Tamayo and his 1938 work Two Women. Tamayo is known for his surrealist-inspired Mexican folk art. Finally Yanowky, a former Boston Ballet principal dancer, selected a 1964 portrait of Jackie Kennedy, titled Friend’s Wife (Mrs. JFK), by Eugene Feldman as her muse. The dark and haunting lithograph depicts the mourning first lady as soft pools of light surrounded by darkness. 

“The curated evening of dance is so elegantly reflective of ballet’s past and its bright and bold future, and I’m so proud of our choreographers and dancers for the work they are doing to bring art to life for our audience,” Breen Combes says. 

As a bonus, the evening will also feature an artifact dance, the iconic Pas de Quatre. It is the peak of romanticism for classical ballet. Originally created in 1845, watch a lithograph come to life from the original work depicting four of the most famous ballerinas of that year. 

Tickets for Off the Wall start at $35 and can be purchased online, by phone or in person at Festival Ballet Providence’s Hope Street studios. For more information, visit festivalballetprovidence.org.