Dance Marathon

Graphic by Rafael Zingle/Technician

The premiere of Carolina Ballet’s “Unique Departures” will be shown from Nov. 18 to 21 at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. The performance consists of four choreographed pieces.

“‘Unique Departures’ as a whole is departing from the classical ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Swan Lake’ ballet and going to the unique aspect of a more contemporary modern take of classical ballet,” said Emily McGeehan, the executive assistant to the artistic director and CEO of Carolina Ballet.

One of the works was choreographed by Jennifer Palmer, a fourth-year studying accounting. Before retiring in May, Palmer danced with Carolina Ballet for seven seasons.

When asked about the choreography process, Palmer said one of the first steps was choosing the music for her piece. She then started thinking about the story she wanted to tell with her choreography. She had many conversations with the artistic director, Zalman Raffael.

“At some point I told him that, at least for my ballet, I was thinking the sun was what I heard in the music,” Palmer said. “And so he was like ‘Oh, that’s wonderful. Go talk to production and let’s see if we can get you a sun…’ So they’ve been building this sun and I’ve been coordinating with the lighting director, the production manager, the stage manager. … It's a really pretty well-rounded team effort. All the departments of the ballet really get involved.”

Palmer’s piece has nine dancers, all of whom she is familiar with from her time as a dancer at Carolina Ballet. According to Palmer, this allowed the rehearsal process to be very collaborative.

“It’s not just about me being like do this, do that,” Palmer said. “I'm really like, ‘How does that feel? Do you guys like doing that?’ At least my philosophy is that if the dancers aren’t comfortable, it's gonna show on stage. And that’s something I learned from being a dancer myself, was that the ballets that truly end up being the best are the ones that we have the most fun performing.”

Palmer’s piece, entitled ‘A New Day,’ is very happy and energized.

“I think it’s gonna be a great well-rounded program,” McGeehan said. “Each piece is very different, so you’ll get a little bit of everything. So it’s not all the same. Everything is different and exciting and unique in its own way.”

The Carolina Ballet Studio, located on Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh, is where the dancing, choreographing and rehearsing start. The shows are performed at the Duke Energy Center of the Performing Arts.

“The theater is fun,” Palmer said. “It’s really fun to be there. There’s just an energy. … Everyone should go see it because we did some live streaming last season during COVID and it’s just not the same. The theater is kind of an empty shell without the people there. … You love the studio because that's like your house where you spend eight hours a day with all these people and then the theater is just something else.”

Ticket prices range from $27 to over $80. Students can purchase tickets for $10. ‘Unique Departures’ will also be virtually live-streamed on Nov. 19. 

“It’s just been a real privilege to be back in the studio, and especially after having retired in May,” Palmer said. “Being able to just be back and feel like I’m an artist creating again… it’s been really nice.”