Music, song and dance intertwined to create an exquisite performance Thursday night during the premiere of “The Poet’s Love.” This collaborative project between the Maine State Ballet and the Florestan Recital Project kicked off its two-week run with a special fundraising party to benefit the Falmouth-based ballet.

About 100 guests attended the event, which featured a cocktail party and an after-performance discussion with the program’s creators.

The performance was held in the ballet company’s intimate theater, where in front of the riser seating a selection of white-draped tables adorned with flickering votives added to the evening’s ambiance. The theater was recently spruced up with a coat of rich burgundy paint and a set of glittering chandeliers.

“We did it just for this event,” Maine State Ballet board member Judith Kimball told me. “Rather than rent a space for this, we said, ‘Why not embellish this space?’“

This prompted James Herrera, who’s danced the role of Drosselmeyer in the Maine State Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” to say to both of us, “It looks like it could be a cabaret space. When it was (previously painted) the lighter color, the light bounced inside the theater and you didn’t get the focus on the performers.”

Alice Kornhauser, who directs marketing for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, told me, “It’s so amazing for an arts organization to have their own performance space.”

The performance itself is also a noteworthy achievement.

“The is the first time we’ve done anything where the musical score comes first,” school founder and artistic director Linda MacArthur Miele told me before the performance began. “Aaron and Alison are so easy to work with.”

Miele told me that the collaboration began when baritone Aaron Engebreth, whose daughter has taken classes at the school, approached her about a joint effort between the ballet company and the Florestan Recital Project, which he and pianist Alison d’Amato head.

“We went through a lot of music and a lot of genres,” Miele said. “We looked at Broadway show tunes and jazz and went through the whole gamut.”

Finally they settled on Robert Schumann’s classic song cycle “Dichterliebe,” which translates from the German as “The Poet’s Love.” The lyrics for the music come from poet Heinrich Heine.

“The interesting thing is the poet is a major German literary figure,” Maine State Ballet board President Langston Snodgrass told me.

The performance was rife with tragic beauty and featured the elegant moves of dancers Glenn Davis, Janet Davis, Frederick Bernier, Kate Hamilton, Nathaniel Dombek, Elizabeth Dragoni and Michael Holden. The audience delivered a standing ovation in response.

During the conversation with the artists that followed the performance, Glenn Davis told the audience: “We do a lot of old pieces, but we’re constantly creating new pieces.”

Davis heads the company’s well-regarded School for the Performing Arts, which offers instruction to more than 500 students ages 3 and up.

Dana Baldwin of Portland and Karina Babcock of South Portland send their daughters to the school. Both praised the training the school provides, and Babcock said her daughter stands out from her peers with her ballerina posture and her ability to speak to a crowd — skills Babcock attributes to her daughter’s training at Maine State Ballet.

This sentiment was shared by Beverly Lowe, who danced with The National Ballet of Canada and later taught at the school for 25 years.

“It’s a wonderful school,” Lowe told me, after catching up with a cluster of her former students. “It’s such a pleasure to come back and see everyone again. The training these dancers get here is the very best.” 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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