Song & Stage

Hamptons Dance Project to Present New Ballets at Guild Hall in August

Jose Sebastian and his dance troupe plan to breathe new life into the East End dance scene.

Straight from the stage of the world’s largest opera house, a troupe of 10 of the most acclaimed ballet dancers will present a fresh program of classical and contemporary ballet works—two of them world premieres—at Guild Hall in East Hampton August 10 and 11.

American Ballet Theatre dancers, Photos: Marty Sohl, Gene Schiavone, Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre
Clockwise from top left: Tyler Maloney, Isabella Boylston, Jose Sebastian, Gabe Stone Shayer, Photos: Marty Sohl, Gene Schiavone, Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

The group is called the Hamptons Dance Project. With its inaugural season, 31-year-old founder and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) corps dancer Jose Sebastian aims to establish an annual tradition of creating new ballets in the Hamptons.

Blaine Hoven, Photo: Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre
Blaine Hoven, Photo: Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

“There isn’t enough dance out there,” Sebastian says. “I want to bring more.”

The program features choreography by ABT Principal Dancer James Whiteside, ABT corps de ballet member Gemma Bond and two new commissions, one by Gregory Dolbashian of the Dash Ensemble and another by Joseph Hernandez of Dresden-based Semperoper Ballet.

“The fact that works are being originated here is new and dynamic,” says Josh Gladstone, artistic director of Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater, noting that Guild Hall rarely produces shows with new choreography debuting in the Hamptons.

Along the lines of dance events in Saratoga Springs, NY and Vail, CO that draw fans from out of town, Whiteside proclaims that this season, “The Hamptons are in!”

“There’s a heritage and a spirit there. It makes so much sense for dancers to have a summer home in the Hamptons,” says principal ballerina Isabella Boylston, who also commends the Hamptons Dance Project on its “commitment to producing new works.” Boylston visits friends in Bridgehampton, where legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins had a home.

Boylston dominates starring roles in ballets like Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet at the 3,800-seat Metropolitan Opera House. At the 360-seat Guild Hall, she will partner with Whiteside, with whom she shares a close bond on and offstage. The duo will perform an introspective pas de deux Whiteside choreographed called On the Water. Set to Franz Schubert’s music, the pas de deux is “an erotic dream, and the man drifts in and out of the woman’s world and gives her something she very much wants,” according to Whiteside.

James Whiteside, Photo: Marty Sohl, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre
James Whiteside, Photo: Marty Sohl, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

The intimate setting and opportunity to produce new works allows the troupe of 10 dancers to challenge themselves with new dance combinations and partnerships. They hope to bring audiences into the process with open classes and rehearsals for VIPs.

Carlos Gonzalez, Photo: Doug Gifford, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre
Carlos Gonzalez, Photo: Doug Gifford, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

“You probably haven’t seen us move in this way,” soloist ballerina Cassandra Trenary says of the new Dolbashian piece. “It’s almost street-style. It’s very different from what audiences have seen from us.”

Sebastian, meanwhile, has a personal connection to the Hamptons. He was adopted out of the NYC foster care system when he was 2 and bonded with his new family during summers with friends in the Hamptons.

Mesmerized by the ocean, Sebastian says he was inspired to dance.

“It’s a homecoming for Jose,” Gladstone says. “He has such a love of the Hamptons, and to share that love with his fellow dancers who are at the highest level of dance, it’s a wonderful gift to our little community.”

The Hamptons Ballet Project performs at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton, on August 10 and 11. For tickets and more information, visit guildhall.org and hamptonsdanceproject.org.

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