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Akron dancer appearing in Verb Ballets’ ‘Carmen’

10/4/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Brian Murphy starring in Akron Civic Theatre show

Verb Ballets’ “Carmen: Story of Passion” will be performed Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Photo courtesy of Verb Ballets
DOWNTOWN AKRON — One of Akron’s most well-known and favorite dancers, Brian Murphy, will appear in Verb Ballets’ “Carmen: Story of Passion” Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre.

Trained in dance at Mia Klinger’s Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet and then later a featured dancer with Ohio Ballet (beginning in 1996), Murphy has performed for and entertained audiences with his athletic prowess, his acting ability, and most of all, his strong dance technique.

For all his work in contemporary ballet, with newly choreographed works, Murphy said during a sit-down interview that he loves the age-old classics.

“I think my favorite” work of “all times,” Murphy said, is “Billy the Kid,” a 1938 creation with a score by famed American composer Aaron Copland and choreography by Eugene Loring. Murphy also has a penchant for things by choreographer and modern dancer Martha Graham, like her famed “Appalachian Spring.”

But contemporary works are just as important to his dance consciousness, he said, including the new work by Verb Ballets choreographer and rehearsal director Richard Dickinson, who also was a dancer and ballet master for the Ohio Ballet, called “Carmen: Story of Passion.”

In this special version of the classic Georges Bizet opera “Carmen,” Dickinson utilized Bizet’s famous music for percussion and string in an arrangement by Rodion Shchedrin.

According to Margaret Carlson, artistic director for Verb Ballets, the contemporary ballet will follow more closely the original novella plot by Prosper Merimee.

One difference, for example, will be a significant nod to the military presence in the work. The male dancers, accordingly, will wear something akin to camouflage outfits. Bring “no preconceptions of the opera,” Carlson said, for “the story is told differently.”

Part of the preconceptions will be about how the work is staged. For the Akron Civic Theatre, the work will be presented “in the round.” It will be performed with the audience sitting on the stage. In short, “the audience will be the setting” of the work, Carlson said. There are only 140 seats available in this format.

Asked how he feels about the intimate situation as a dancer, Murphy said he “loves the closeness” and the “responses” from the audience. He said “non-ballet goers like it that way.” They “can see [the dancers] sweat” and get a close up view that shows how hard the dancers are working.

From the dancers point of view, they have to be focused. The audience can see — and hear — everything they do. So, unlike a distant stage performance, the dancers can’t talk to each other as they might in other circumstances.

Unlike most dancers one may know, Murphy’s preparations before performances are somewhat unique. He eats, he said with a grin, “a huge meal.” He never “marks” (that is, do a walk-through of the steps) for fear that once he goes through them, he might draw a blank when the curtain lifts and the time comes, he said. His partners, he said, “know better” and let him do his thing. And, this dancer likes to go off alone just to be quiet. No chattiness for him that you might see for others.

For all that, however, Murphy always gets nervous before going onstage, he said, but only until the curtain goes up and the lights hit him. Then “it all goes away,” he said, and the performance becomes “the sole focus.” He added, at that point, “You put on the best show you can.”

Akron dancers in Verb Ballets comprise four of the nine-member ensemble. Other Akron area dancers are Ryan De Alexandro, Ashley Cohen, and Stephanie Krise.

Tickets cost $25 and are available at 330-253-2488 or www.akroncivic.com.

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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