Behind-the-Scenes of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp!
It Takes a Village…
by Jaclyn Younger
With the arrival of spring comes one of the most exciting and highly anticipated parts of The New Mexico Ballet Company’s 2017/2018 season, a brand new, full length production of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. The show serves as a major collaboration between not only NMBC and the New Mexico Philharmonic, but as one between a large variety of artists.
For NMBC’s artistic director Natalie Harris, this particular type of production is one of both big challenges and immense rewards.
“Every year we face challenges in many ways for creating a new ballet, from performers’ schedules being a conflict to dancer injuries all the way to not having enough funding,” says Harris, “there is a lot of pressure to create work for an entire ballet that has many different moving parts.”
In addition to focusing on appropriate casting, choreography, and adapting a story for the stage, Harris also works closely with the New Mexico Philharmonic’s own David Felberg to find the right music for a brand new show. Felberg works regularly with NMBC on the company’s annual production of The Nutcracker and has also collaborated in previous seasons with Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.
Felberg states that each spring production is very much a team effort for both NMBC and the New Mexico Philharmonic.
“Natalie usually tells me what she’s looking for in a particular scene and I suggest possible music for it,” states Felberg concerning how music is selected. “Then she refines the selections to what would work best overall.”
For Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Harris and Felberg selected music by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov with a large focus on pieces from the widely popular Scheherazade and some selections from The Golden Cockerel.
Felberg states that he always finds the spring production to be one with great outcomes for both the Philharmonic and NMBC.
“NMBC is so great to work with,” says Felberg, “so professional and creative.”
Another piece of the puzzle for NMBC’s spring production is the incorporation of graphics into a performance. While The Nutcracker relies on lavish backdrops and set pieces, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp will include live projections designed by a very talented team of artist who create graphics that are then aninated and brought to life by Daniel Chapman in order to tell its tale.
“I spend most of my time animating the content created by the graphic artists and integrating those into the control system,” says Chapman, “I take static images that are painted or created digitally and change those into dynamic animations and backdrops for the performers.”
Chapman also works to incorporate fire and smoke effects into the production making the overall process roughly 120+ hours of work. He notes that while a production this size does take a significant amount of time to create, the results are very worth the effort.
For Chapman, the best part of collaborating with NMBC is, “working with talented designers, musicians, choreographers, and dancers to create a new piece the public can enjoy.”
Through the stressful and extremely extensive collaboration and creation process of working with new music and roughly 70 dancers, Harris always likes to take a step back and reflect on her favorite part of making a brand new ballet.
“I feel that the most rewarding part is the rehearsals themselves,” Harris states, “I love to create movement and a story on the dancers…they are always so willing and able to do what I ask even though it may seem weird at first.”