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Arts & Culture

Ballet Idaho Goes Ballroom With Twyla Tharp And Frank Sinatra

Adam Cotterell
Boise State Public Radio
Ballet Idaho's Nic Gili and principal dancer Elizabeth Keller rehearse Nine Sinatra Songs.

Friday and Saturday Ballet Idaho does its winter show at Boise’s Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. And tickets sold much faster than usual. This ballet is made up of four short pieces but one of them in particular is generating the excitement.

Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
John Selya has been dancing professionally for nearly 30 years.

At a recent rehearsal John Selya goes over trouble spots with Ballet Idaho dancers, an activity he calls slaying dragons.

Ballet Idaho usually choreographs its own shows but this time directors asked legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp for permission to do her ballroom dance-inspired ballet Nine Sinatra Songs. Tharp sent Selya who’s a member of her company to stage it. Selya thinks part of the reason Boise audiences are excited about this show - which Ballet Idaho is calling Sinatra and More - is the enduring connection people feel to the music of the Chairman of the Board.

“I think the magic of this chemistry is equal parts Twyla and Frank,” Selya says.

Tharp is certainly one of the best known names in the dance world. Selya says her reputation is entirely earned.

“She’s unpredictable," he says. “I think she avoids clichés. But I think Boise audiences are eager because they want to experience it firsthand. You know, it’s like a great piece of art coming through to your local museum. You want to see what the fuss is all about.”

But Selya says audiences won’t see a reproduction of other Nine Sinatra Songs performances. He says Tharp created a framework and set down some of the big elements, but he and the Ballet Idaho dancers have a lot of freedom to create.

Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
Madeline Bay and Graham Gobeille work on slaying a dragon with John Selya.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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