avant chamber ballet

Avant Chamber Ballet will team with Midway High School’s Camerata orchestra for a Monday night performance.

Sometimes smaller is better and in the case of Avant Chamber Ballet, it leads to more opportunity.

A smaller ensemble makes it easier to find venues that fit and collaborate with other groups. That’s precisely what the Dallas company will do Monday night when it comes to Waco to perform with Midway High School’s Camerata orchestra.

The Avant Chamber Ballet will bring 11 dancers and two understudies to perform two small ballets, one set to Bach’s Double Violin Concerto and the other to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

“It’s my two favorite ballets and a perfect fit for what they had in Waco,” said artistic director Katie Cooper, who choreographed both pieces.

The ACB always performs with live accompaniment so when Cooper heard a favorable report on the Midway facility and student orchestra after the Ballet Frontier of Texas performed “The Nutcracker” there last December, she decided to look into the possibility of working together.

Midway director of orchestras Beau Benson readily agreed and the ball was rolling for Monday’s concert.

Cooper, 35, grew up around Wichita Falls and danced professionally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with such companies as the Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet, the Metropolitan Classical Ballet and the Texas Ballet Theater. She studied with Paul Mejia, founder of the Ballet Frontier of Texas, and performed both in the United States and in Europe.

Her work in the Dallas area brought her in contact with David Cooper, principal horn player for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The two worked on several joint projects, found a shared philosophy on music, dance and performance and, as she put it, “things blossomed.”

The two married and when the ACB was created six years ago split duties: she as artistic director, he as music director.

The Dallas company numbers about 20 dancers, a chamber ballet in contrast to larger companies that mount what Cooper calls ballet theater: large productions with scores of dancers, full stage sets and substantial orchestral accompaniment.

What audiences will see Monday is ballet in the classical style, but not rigidly formal. “It’s classical ballet, but relatable and natural. We’re not doing ballet of princesses and queens,” she said.

The Bach piece, which features violinists Kristin Mortenson and Amanda Schubert, interprets the work’s musicality while the Copland ballet works with its main characters of the Bride, the Groom and the Reverend, but not as story-driven as the original choreography by Martha Graham, she said.

The two-piece program with intermission runs about an hour in length, making it accessible to families on a school night.

“It’s perfect for a Monday night. It’s a great evening for introducing people to ballet and live music,” Cooper said. “When you have live music and dance, you have twice the performance.”

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor