[Editor’s Note – This article was written prior to the cancellation of Oregon Theatre Ballet’s Spring 2020 season. Publication awaited receipt of the accompanying photo, which was delayed for the same underlying reason.]

A Preview of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Beautiful Decay
via Zoom, April 29, 2020

Dean Speer

Like so much of the rest of the world these days, I have been getting out of my cave by connecting and reconnecting via technology, specifically including many meetings by a videoconference program called Zoom. An easy way to see and talk to not just one person but a group as well, Zoom has emerged as a leading platform for communication.

Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers Jessica Lind and Brian Simcoe
in Nicolo Fonte’s “Beautiful Decay”
Photo by Christopher Peddecord

I was charmed and delighted to be invited by Oregon Ballet Theatre to participate in a Zoom discussion with the choreographer of OBT’s popular ballet Beautiful Decay, its creator Nicolo Fonte. It was a fun opportunity to learn more about more about the production of Beautiful Decay with a virtual Q&A.  Artistic Director Kevin Irving led a discussion with Fonte and OBT Dancers Emily Parker, Peter Franc and Xuan Cheng and their guest artists, Gregg Bielemeier and Kasandra Gruener. It was interesting hearing from the dancers their thoughts on their roles and the poetry of the work’s simple gestures and its vigorous movement. I also enjoyed hearing what they are doing to stay sane and in shape during this time’s stay-at-home directive. One commented about how true it is that dance really is a congregant thing — we need each other. Virtual dancing is only just that, as good as it is to connect online.

I liked, too, hearing how Fonte was inspired by a fossilized flower, rendered into art, that he saw at the Oregon Historical Society’s museum a few years ago and how he envisioned the ballet as a metaphor for life’s experience. Fonte described his inspiration for the work, “When thinking about a series of photographs of very much dead but still very vibrant flowers — these flowers were so full of movement, and retained such a potent identity and some sense of ‘self,’ that the beauty evident in the decay was to me both noble and touching.”

The music (Antonio Vivaldi, Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds) and set (divided “rooms”) work together to this end. The dancers move across the stage only in one direction, symbolizing this journey.

OBT’s website describes this dance so aptly as “Ageless Beauty.” OBT’s Resident Choreographer Fonte debuted the vivacious Beautiful Decay in 2015 to extraordinary acclaim. Since its OBT debut, Beautiful Decay has been performed around the country and now, as part of OBT’s 30th anniversary season, returns with national recognition.

We can all hope that the June performances will happen as planned.