Going Solo

Challenge is opportunity.

The Going Solo series was an adventurous move in our ongoing commitment to find innovative ways to share the magic of dance with our community.

In this groundbreaking series, we challenged American Midwest Ballet company artists and guest choreographers to create solo dance works that reflect their personal visions, ranging from original responses to this unique period in time to the exploration of existing works that challenge their growth as artists. The company provided studio work space and mentorship for our artists.

Then, documentary filmmaker Lance Glenn produced videos of selected works, combining behind-the-scenes insights with a unique visual interpretation of the finished performance.

Each work premiered right here, as well as on YouTube and Facebook. Scroll down to re-view all your favorites from the Going Solo series!

Lady of the Lake
Choreographer: Erika Overturff
Performer: Whitney Walsh
Premiere: September 9, 2021 – 7 pm CST

“I grew up in the ocean,” company artist Whitney Walsh once told an interviewer. She was referring to her California childhood – but ever since, it’s been an affectionate joke among the dancers to say that golden-haired, water-loving Whitney is actually a mermaid.

So when artistic director Erika Overturff wanted to make a splash for the final work of the Going Solo series, Whitney naturally came to mind.

“I thought of her in the ocean, and emerging out of the water,” Erika said. “But we’re here in the beautiful Midwest, so it’s more of a lake vibe. She became the Lady of the Lake, and I wanted her character to be beautiful but mysterious.”

Seasons
Choreographer/Performer: Nora Carr
Premiere: August 20, 2021 – 7 pm CST

Gratitude was the inspiration for Nora Carr’s Seasons. Nora chose to perform her work outdoors, near sunset, to evoke a cherished memory.

“A few years ago in Omaha, I attended a live concert that was outside,” she said. “It was right as the sun was setting, and the main group came out, and I remember being so inspired by their passion and their artistry and the beautiful backdrop of the sun going down. I remember thinking, this is a live performance that will stick with me forever.”

Nora said titling her work Seasons is appropriate because she started thinking about the concept in the fall, choreographed it in the winter, and filmed it in the spring for its premiere at the end of summer. “I’m so lucky and grateful,” she said, “to be able, no matter what time of year or whatever season it is, to be able to have the chance to create and dance and share my my art form.”

Solace
Choreographer/Performer: Alyssa Grimsley
Premiere: August 6, 2021 – 7 pm CST

The challenge of working in isolation and the passion of music were the driving forces behind Alyssa Grimsley’s Solace.

Solace, Alyssa explains, means comfort in times of trouble or sorrow – and she began creating this solo for herself as her own source of solace from the anxieties of the pandemic. “We’ve all dealt with tension of restlessness and fatigue,” she said, “and yet we know that there’s hope at the end of the day.”

Alyssa, a pianist herself, knew she wanted to choreograph to classical piano, and was drawn to the melody of Franz Schubert’s Serenade. She found a dynamic adaptation of Schubert’s work by Sergei Rachmaninoff: “I felt like it had a lot more ups and downs, and there was a lot of passion to explore through movement.”

The Bee’s Knees
Choreographer: Erika Overturff
Performers: Elena Carter, Cameron Miller, Wyatt Payne, Rachel Smith
Premiere: July 23, 2021 – 7 pm CST

The innovations of the Art Deco era brought exciting changes to Americans’ daily lives. Suddenly there were new ways to travel, to dress, to have fun, and to talk about it all. When a new experience was extra-special, it wasn’t just good – it was “the bee’s knees”!

Erika Overturff’s The Bee’s Knees is American Midwest Ballet’s latest collaboration with Joslyn Art Museum. It celebrates Joslyn’s featured exhibit American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939 – as well as the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Museum’s Memorial Building, where the production was filmed on location.

“It’s a dance that’s stylish and fun,” says Erika. “My goal is to capture the fresh spirit of the 1920s, of heading out with your friends to do something exciting and new.”

The Trumpet Solo
Choreographer: Bob Fosse
Staged by: Ann Reinking and Dylis Croman
Performer: Kelanie Murphy
Premiere: July 9, 2021 – 7 pm CST

Bob Fosse’s electrifying Trumpet Solo from ‘Sing, Sing Sing’ – the subject of this film by Lance Glenn – was part of two Tony Award-winning Broadway shows.

The solo, seen here in a spectacular performance by AMB company artist Kelanie Murphy, was introduced by legendary Fosse muse Ann Reinking. It first appeared in Fosse’s 1978 revue Dancin’, which ran on Broadway for 1,774 performances and won Fosse a Tony Award for choreography. It returned in the 1999 revue Fosse, which was directed by Reinking and Richard Maltby Jr. and won that year’s Tony Award for Best Musical. Its performers included Dylis Croman, whose Broadway credits also include the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago.

Reinking and Croman worked together to teach the solo to Kelanie Murphy for this production. The film includes both the performance and a tribute to Reinking, who died in December 2020, shortly after completing her work with Kelanie. “Annie was the most amazing and inspiring person,” AMB artistic director Erika Overturff said. “We miss her dearly and will always treasure the time we had with her.”

If Only
Choreographer: Frank Chaves
Performers: Jessica Lopes and Isaac Sharratt
Premiere: June 18, 2021 – 7 pm CST

Guest choreographer Frank Chaves explores the universal yearning for human contact in If Only, a magical and melancholy duet created for Going Solo: The Guest Series and performed by AMB dancers Jessica Lopes and Isaac Sharratt (a real-life married couple.)

Frank Chaves credits his early experience as a musician combined with his Cuban heritage for the musicality and passion of his work. Collaborating with dancers and utilizing a unique creative process, he produces highly musical, emotionally gripping dances that are his passion and hallmark. After 23 years as Artistic Director of River North Dance Chicago, Chaves officially retired in December 2015, after having produced more than 20 original works for the company. He is familiar to AMB audiences through works including the colorful and powerful Habaneras, the Music of Cuba.

A Slow Drag
Choreographer: Edgar L. Page
Performer: Claire Goodwillie
Premiere: June 4, 2021 – 7 pm CST

For a choreographer, time is a working tool. But as much of America endured last summer’s pandemic lockdowns, Edgar L. Page noticed that time seemed to be behaving differently.

His new Going Solo work, A Slow Drag, “looks at my experience with the feeling of having time become non-linear, in a sense, during this very unique time of history that we all endured,” he says.

A Slow Drag explores this concept through film. Cinematographer Lance Glenn filmed AMB company artist Claire Goodwillie performing Page’s choreography in several locations – from a dance studio to a rooftop – then assembled the segments into a seamless yet non-linear flow.

Ghost Light
Choreographer: Ray Mercer
Performer: Katerina Schweitzer
Premiere: May 21, 2021 – 7 pm CST

In a theater, the “ghost light” (a bare bulb mounted on a movable stand) is left burning whenever the stage is dark and unused. Pragmatically, it serves as a safety device – and by tradition, it is said to keep the ghosts who haunt old theaters from feeling lonely.

Omaha native Ray Mercer, a resident choreographer for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Ailey/Fordham BFA Program and an artist-in-residence for Omaha Performing Arts, draws on this tradition in ‘Ghost Light,’ his solo for American Midwest Ballet’s Katerina Schweitzer, evoking the restless spirits idled by our currently dark theaters.

Pearl
Choreographer: Sandra Organ Solis
Performer: Amaris Sharratt
Premiere: May 7, 2021 – 7 pm CST

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, this film depicts a young woman who seems to revel in the possession of a precious jewel… until…

As part of Going Solo: The Guest Series, the choreography for this film was created by Omaha-born and Omaha-trained ballerina Sandra Organ Solis, the Houston Ballet’s first African American dancer to attain the rank of soloist. Solis later went on to found her own company, Earthen Vessels. One of her dancers there was AMB’s Amaris Sharratt, whose uncanny resemblance to the girl in Vermeer’s painting helped inspire this work.

Soon You’ll Get Better
Choreographer/Performer: Elena Carter
Guest Filmmaker: Connor Jalbert
Premiere: April 16, 2021 – 7 pm CST

In an instant last September, Elena Carter’s life turned upside down. Her father, running on a Seattle street that had been closed to traffic, was struck by an errant car and seriously injured. Elena rushed home to be with her family. “You never really know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do – I didn’t know how to help. I decided I wanted to choreograph a solo to dedicate to my father on his road to recovery.” Eventually, with her father slowly on the mend, Elena turned that choreography into this week’s Going Solo premiere: a simple, heartfelt work titled Soon You’ll Get Better.

Moments Between Memories
Choreographer/Performer: Erin Alarcón
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: March 12, 2021 – 7 pm CST

“This past year circumstances have kept me at home with my son, Rory,” said Erin Alarcón of the inspiration behind this film. “One night I was on Instagram while putting him to bed, and he turned my face and said, ‘hi mommy.’ I put my phone down and really took in that moment of rocking my son to sleep and the beautiful simplicity of it. That night made me re-examine… how in an effort to capture memories, edit those memories and caption those memories, we can miss out on enjoying the memories.

“There is a wonderful freedom and beauty in surrendering to the present moment.”

En Dehors
Choreographer/Performer: Rebecca Brenner
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: February 26, 2021 – 7 pm CST

For a choreographer, there’s nothing like having a composer in the family! Rebecca Brenner collaborated with her cousin, Austin-based composer and digital musical artist Paul Vera, for this Going Solo premiere – a work that explores classical beauty in unexpected surroundings.

Trains
Choreographer: Erika Overturff
Performer: Cameron Miller
Special Guest: Doyle Tipler
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: February 12, 2021 – 7 pm CST

Trains, Erika Overturff’s carefree, jazzy solo for dancer Cameron Miller, with trumpeter Doyle Tipler as special guest, captures the sense of liberation that travel, music, and dancing all can bring. Cinematographer Lance Glenn filmed on location at the Rails West Museum in Council Bluffs to evoke the golden age of rail travel.

The Dying Swan
Choreographer: Michel Fokine; staged by Matthew Lovegood
Performer: Alexandra Hoffman
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: January 29, 2021 – 7 pm CST

Created in 1905 through a memorable collaboration between classical innovator Michel Fokine and iconic ballerina Anna Pavlova, The Dying Swan is a masterful blend of technique and expression. This performance, staged by Matthew Lovegood and danced by Alexandra Hoffman to Saint-Saëns’ poignant score, was created through a virtual collaboration with the Omaha Symphony, featuring principal cellist Paul Ledwon. Lance Glenn’s insightful film puts the viewer onstage with Alexandra as she experiences the emotions of performing this pivotal work.

Creator Talkback
Premiere: January 23, 2021

Going Solo creators share their thoughts and answer audience-submitted questions in this talkback, hosted by Hannah Clark. Participants in this session are:

  • Erika Overturff – AMB artistic director; choreographer and dancer, A Year I Won’t Forget
  • Lance Glenn – Filmmaker
  • Seneca Montgomery – Choreographer, Order in the Chaos
  • Kogan Murphy – Choreographer and dancer,  Tomorrow
  • Kelsey Schwenker – Choreographer and dancer, Denouement Escapade
  • Anna Swenson – Dancer, Order in the Chaos

Tomorrow
Choreographer/Performer: Kogan Murphy
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: January 15, 2021 – 7 pm CST

In this tribute to her adopted hometown, choreographer and performer Kogan Murphy often improvised her movements as she danced at some of Omaha’s most iconic locations. “I think that sometimes spontaneous ideas are the best,” she says. “It just became really fun and enjoyable… that feeling of when you’re a little girl and you’re just dancing in your room. It was a good feeling to go back to that.” Filmmaker Lance Glenn’s masterful use of the technique of “match-action editing” creates a seamless flow of movement as Kogan’s inspirations carry her from place to place.

A Year I Won’t Forget
Choreographer/Performer: Erika Overturff
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: December 26, 2020 – 7 pm CST

Choreographer and performer Erika Overturff gives 2020 her own distinctive send-off in this work filmed by Lance Glenn.

Denouement Escapade
Choreographer/Performer: Kelsey Schwenker
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: December 4, 2020 – 7 pm CST

Founding company member Kelsey Schwenker reflects on her love of the outdoors, her retirement from ballet, and the transition to the next stage of her life in this gracefully introspective solo, filmed in a secluded grotto by director Lance Glenn.

Order in the Chaos
Choreographer: Seneca Montgomery
Performer: Anna Swenson
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: November 20, 2020 – 7 pm CST

Graceful yet intense, Order in the Chaos embodies the quest to come to terms with a tumultuous world. Guest choreographer Seneca Montgomery and AMB company artist Anna Swenson collaborated to create this piece as a way of dealing with current circumstances. “You want to escape,” says Anna. “You want to be free of everything that’s happening, but this is the world that we’re in and these are the things we have to deal with.” Seneca says, “It’s trying to find your order in this chaos.”

The Sun Rises Inside
Choreographer: Kelanie Murphy
Performers: Alexandra Hoffman, Kelanie Murphy, Kogan Murphy, Katerina Schweitzer
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: November 6, 2020 – 7 pm CST

The sun is warm, the air is mild, and a gentle breeze rustles the leaves. It’s a beautiful day for a walk in the woods… a feeling choreographer Kelanie Murphy sets out to capture in her Going Solo work, “The Sun Rises Inside.” She worked closely with filmmaker Lance Glenn to create dance choreography that takes full advantage of the film medium, with four individual dancers’ performances united through cinematic techniques.

Pithos
Choreographer: Claire Goodwillie
Performer: Alyssa Grimsley
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: October 23, 2020 – 7 pm CDT

The box seems so small… so delicate. Surely there could be no harm in opening it…? This fateful moment of decision in a young woman’s life has come down to us through almost 3,000 years of poetic history as the story of Pandora’s Box. Choreographer Claire Goodwillie has chosen it as the basis for her “Going Solo” work, a short storytelling ballet in the classical style, danced by Alyssa Grimsley.

Rendezvous
Choreographer/Performer: Matthew Lovegood
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: October 9, 2020 – 7 pm CDT

The bar is empty and so is your glass. Give up and go home, or give the evening one more chance? Choreographer/performer Matthew Lovegood’s wry, jazzy style and Lance Glenn’s dynamic direction take full advantage of the vintage-contemporary vibe of the filming location: the McCormick’s 1894 event space at the Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center.

It Starts with a Step
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: October 2, 2020 – 7 pm CDT

In 2009, dancers of the Omaha Theater Ballet were called into a meeting and told the company was being disbanded and their jobs eliminated. The future of professional dance in Nebraska seemed very much in doubt. But dancers of the company came together, made their own plans, and — less than a year later — staged the debut performance of the company that became today’s American Midwest Ballet.

Documentary filmmaker Lance Glenn had unique backstage access to the entire process, blending it with insightful interviews to tell the inspiring story of artists who refused to give up.

Remembering Swing! – Featurette for It Starts with a Step
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: September 23, 2020 CDT

On October 2, 2010, the brand-new ballet company that would become today’s American Midwest Ballet took the stage for the first time ever at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater, in Harrison McEldowney’s exhilarating Swing, Swing, Swing! In this featurette, cast members look back on the uncertainty and excitement that led up to that memorable evening.

Trailer – It Starts with a Step 10-Year Anniversary
Filmmaker: Lance Glenn
Premiere: September 16, 2020 CDT

Going Solo Overview
Premiere: March 18, 2020

This video introduced the Going Solo project to viewers and fans.