Albany Berkshire Ballet revives spring season in Pittsfield


PITTSFIELD -- Perhaps the Albany Berkshire Ballet will lead the way out of the recession -- or at least toward a brighter future, which the company and its uber-optimistic founder and artistic director is now contemplating.

The bold bi-state dance troupe led by Madeleine Cantarella Culpo is in the midst of its first spring mini-season in several years.

Due to the economic crunch, Culpo, using sound common sense, spurned fall, summer and spring for a number of seasons, confining Albany Berkshire Ballet to annual holiday performances of "The Nutcracker," that popular stand-by that allows for survival of ballet companies everywhere dance is made.

Now the company has un veiled "Premieres and Fa vorites," a fresh spring repertory of five works, last week at the SUNY Albany Performing Arts Center, and this Saturday night at 8 they will present the program on the Boyd-Quin son Main Stage at Barrington Stage Company in downtown Pittsfield.

Culpo said she is determined to make this expansive move.

"Yes, I think it is about time that we did something more than ‘Nutcracker,' " she said. "We're taking this plunge again to try to be more visible in Berkshire County and in the New York area."

And that is how forthrightly she approached her board, which she suggested is a very strong group these days, and equally optimistic and re sourceful.

"We have small, ongoing fundraising activities that help, and the board is generous. We're not trying to make any money; we just hope to cover expenses -- Notice, I didn't say ‘cover all the expenses,' " she added, suggesting the hope that the event this weekend will attract a large audience, but that, as leaders in the arts realize, ticket sales cover only part of the expenses, 50 percent if the organization is very fortunate.

Culpo is delighted to be at Barrington Stage.

"It's a beautiful theater, ideal for our type of small concerts," she said. "You know, we performed there years ago, long before it was Barrington Stage."

Illustrating the bi-city nature of the company, she conducted early rehearsals for this program at the company's studios in Pittsfield and later ones this week in Albany.

The company premiere is a new work for six female dancers by Paula Weber, "To Each Her Own," set by Weber to an intriguing four-century-spanning score package by Arvo Pärt and Giovanni Battista Per golesi. It is staged by Anna Acker, who also performs in the dance.

Weber, a former dancer with the company, is now dean of the University of Missouri at Kansas City's Conservatory of Music and Dance, and Acker, now a professional dancer, began her training at the School of Albany Berkshire Ballet, later studying with Weber at the conservatory.

Weber describes the piece as "poignant, depicting the similarities of the women and the distinct differences in their personalities as they choose their paths that are ever changing, revealing each individual and what [she] is made of."

Culpo is reviving "Noc turnes," a favorite of hers by Mary Margaret Giannone Talmi, another alumna of the company. Two couples perform the dance, set to three nocturnes by Chopin, performed by Artur Rubinstein.

"It is pure dance, just so beautiful," Culpo said. "She's done such a fantastic thing. Every few years I say, ‘Mary, we'll do it again.' "

Christine Geren, principal company dancer who began her studies with Northeast Ballet, appears in the other works. "Grand Pas Classique," a duet for two women and part of a full ballet, gives a celebrated homage to classical dance choreographed by Victor Gsovsky to Daniel Auber's score, originally composed for an opera.

Geren said she feels especially honored to be performing the "Dying Swan," set by Mik hail Fokine to a cello solo by Camille Saint-Saëns for the great Anna Pavlova.

Goren is equally ebullient about "Caprice," created by Culpo, also to a Saint-Saëns score and staged by Deirdre Duffin Swindlehurst, the ballet mistress.

"I really can see [Culpo's] choreography in it," Goren said. "it's so classical that it's hard as a dancer not to love it."

Culpo said she would like to return to "Carmina Burana" and other major works from the company's past, as well as strike out in new directions. "That's our goal. And this is, for us, a new beginning." 

If you go ...

What: Albany Berkshire Ballet spring performance by company dancers and guest performers from across the United States, as well as Brazil, Mexico and Cuba

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Main Stage, Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St, Pittsfield.

Admission: $28.

Box office: (413) 236-8888,

Information:, (413) 445-5382


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