Guy Picot gets a rare behind-the-scenes look at Chasen Greenwood as as he rehearses The Realm Company for the unveiling of his new, big-screen-inspired, fantasy ballet, THE PHOENIX.
by Guy Picot
The recently-formed Realm Company is presenting a new ballet, THE PHOENIX, at West Side Ballet’s Black Box Theatre. Created by acclaimed dancer-turned-choreographer Chasen Greenwood and composer Taylor Briggs, THE PHOENIX is a neo-classical two-act piece, with an epic cinematic score. I was lucky enough to attend a rehearsal.
Greenwood skipped the usual company class as there was some choreography still to set. Working with a full recording of the impressive score, he quickly demonstrated each eight-count, and the dancers magically performed it as though they had been rehearsing it for weeks.
I was struck by how considerate he was to his disciples; each section to be worked on was preceded by the instruction “Mark what you need to”, but there was no marking. The “Fairies” and “Minions”, who are the battling soldiers of the piece and attendants of the soloists, are no cookie-cutter corps de ballet; they are all shapes and sizes and are actively encouraged by Greenwood to bring their own personalities to the piece, some of them don’t even have buns!
The Russian-trained, and ex-Russian State Ballet soloist, Matisse Love takes the title role. She brings a delicate, other-worldly quality that is both bird-like and profoundly human. Love only returned to the US last year, prompted by the war in Ukraine. The 14yr old student dancer Sophia Brown plays the young Pheonix in the first act, and her inner child in the second.
The stunning and statuesque (I’m guessing 6’2″) Holly Johnson plays The Enchantress who seems a formidable foe for our protagonist, their wary second act reconciliation is a touching reminder that healing is possible.
Absent from the rehearsal was soloist Cesar Ramirez Castellano as The Knight, he was busy with his day-job at Los Angeles Ballet, Greenwood stepped in where necessary to partner.
The music is highly theatrical, with lots of deep cello and brass as well as choral chanting, at times reminiscent of Morricone or Carl Orff, but always its own thing. Composer Taylor Briggs is the son of celebrated guitarist Tim Briggs, of Alabama fame. The collaboration between Greenwood and Briggs took place largely on Zoom, as Briggs is at Berklee College of Music in Boston. One silver lining of the writers/actors strike is that neither partner were side-tracked by their usual TV gigs as the piece took shape.
Even on a Tuesday morning, in a sunlit studio, with the dancers in casual rehearsal clothes, the power of the piece came through. Its story of struggle, death, and rebirth seemed both modern and timeless. The choreography is very much in the classical tradition with lots of pointe-work and elegant lines but it has a contemporary resonance by virtue of the music and the grounded strength of the performances, as well as a battle sequence and a sword-fight.
Greenwood hopes that this first outing for the piece will be a stepping-stone to further, bigger productions with full orchestra and a few more dancers.
THE PHOENIX by Chasen Greenwood
Chasen Greenwood’s THE REALM COMPANY debuts a full-length story ballet, THE PHOENIX, with a nod to fantastical films and an original score by musical protégé Taylor Briggs, on October 22 and 29 at Westside School of Ballet‘s new Black Box Theatre, 1709 Stewart Street, in Santa Monica, CA, 90404.
The Phoenix, a family-friendly ballet, draws inspiration from big-screen fantasy, with elements of blockbusters like Harry Potter and independent cinema like Pan’s Labyrinth to create a unique spectacle of dance and music that expresses the themes of love, coming of age, mysticism and rebirth.
A number of talented up-and-coming dancers also star in the production, including former Russian State Ballet
Theatre Soloist Matisse Love, influencer and former New York City Ballet Soloist Kathryn Morgan, and David Protas of the New York City Ballet. Westside Ballet student dancer and SAG actress Sophia Brown (14) will play the Young Phoenix. Hollywood combat artist for the last scene.
Featuring a red carpet, DJ and specialtiy Phoenix cocktail starting at 5 pm featuring a specialty Phoenix cocktail.
The performance will begin at 6 pm.
Tickets start at $40: https://www.therealmscompany.com/events
About “The Realm”… The Realm Company is an innovative project-based dance company. They aim to stimulate the mind and challenge the body to help audiences discover their inner dancer. “Explore a new world of motion and emotion with us and get to know yourself in a whole new way. “Welcome to The Realm of entertainment, produced, directed, and choreographed by Chasen Greenwood. Come have a drink and enjoy top industry artists. Through each story, we will take you on a journey spreading light, inscription, and love.”
Chasen Greenwood‘s unwavering commitment to dance and his mission to make a positive impact have found a perfect union. In March 2022, he was honored as one of The Argonaut’s ‘Westsiders to Watch.’ Amid the pandemic, Chasen led innovative projects, including weekly shows on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade’s Marley Floor,
fostering collaborations with fellow artists. In fall 2021, he was recognized by professional adult ballet dancers for uplifting community spirits in the aftermath of the Covid wave. His successful October 2021 Gala set the stage for the birth of Realm, backed by supportive investors. Chasen’s accolades include being hailed as ‘One to Watch’ by Dancer Magazine following a national tour with State Street Ballet and earning the title of ‘Best Young Choreographer’ at the Regional America Southwest Festival. He remains devoted to expanding dance’s influence through Realm’s performances, exploring unique themes from movies, TV, and theater, while championing values like compassion, love, fearlessness, and grounding in a challenging world.
Gallery Photos: The Realm Company by Guy Picot
Photo: Matisse Love: Courtesy of Westside School of Ballet
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