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Meet Choreographer Robert Gardner

By January 27, 2024February 16th, 2024No Comments

Meet Choreographer

Robert Gardner

Robert Gardner was commissioned to re-imagining of Anna Pavlova’s, Bacchanale. While the actual choreography is lost, sculptor Malvina Hoffman preserved much it with 26 friezes of poses from the ballet along with a life-size bronze sculpture that sits in the outdoor gardens of the Cleveland Museum of Art. As it was being sculpted, it was overseen by Pavlova to maintain absolute balletic accuracy. This new company work will appear on the February 10th show at The Breen Center for the Performing Arts.

Anna Pavlova is known as the world’s prima ballerina assoluta. Hitting her peak in the 1920’s, and forever known for her rendition of The Dying Swan, unknown to many is that she also choreographed. Those few works are lost to history but one, Bacchanale, was preserved by the sculptor, Malvina Hoffman. Pavlova and Hoffman’s friendship and subsequent partnership resulted in the creation of 26 friezes and one life-size sculpture of the ballet. Abraham Garfield, nephew of President Garfield and a Cleveland architect, commissioned Malvina Hoffman to make a life-sized copy of her original 14 inch tall sculpture, Bacchanale Russe for his client business leader and philanthropist, Henry G. Dalton. The original Dalton Bacchanale is currently in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art and is located out of doors on the southeast corner of the museum grounds. Choreographer Gardner reimagined the ballet choreographed by Pavlova referencing the artwork as historical inspiration. He embraced Pavlova’s iconic expressive and emotive style of ballet.

The work of sculptor Malvina Hoffman

Prima ballerina assoluta, Anna Pavlova

Robert Garder

Robert Gardner began his dance training in his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia. He furthered his training under scholarship at the North Carolina School of the Arts and at the School of American Ballet. He began his professional career in New York with the Eglevsky Ballet, the Joffrey II Dancers, then performed with the Joffrey Ballet where he danced works by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Tudor, Ruthanna Boris, and Choo San Goh throughout the United States, as well as internationally. His career moved him west, where with the San Jose/Cleveland Ballet he danced principal and soloist roles in works by George Balanchine, Agnes De Mille, Lar Lubovitch, Jose’ Limon, Dennis Nahat, and others. He appeared as a guest artist with the Houston Grand Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York. His world dance experience has enriched his vision, choreography, and teaching.

Most recently, as Artistic Director of the Rochester City Ballet, Robert successfully led the company thorough the challenges of the pandemic, creating virtual performances, presenting programming such as his acclaimed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in outdoor arenas and creating virtual educational outreach programming. While building the artistic excellence of the company through his original choreography, such as his contemporary retelling of “Carmen,” he helped to promote diversity through commissions of emerging artists.

Prior to moving to New York, he served as the Artistic Director of the Minnesota Ballet for 12 years, where he choreographed over 40 works, including his original versions of “Sleeping Beauty,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Dracula,” “Firebird, and “Swan Lake,” described as a “lush dance epic.” His work has been hailed as having a “meticulous use of contrasting imagery, emotions and energy that make each dance moment exquisitely unique,” and has been presented to acclaim nationally and internationally. He has choreographed for opera and orchestra, as well as musical theater. His national connections have enabled him to bring masterworks by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Agnes DeMille, Anthony Tudor, and Salvatore Aiello to the companies he has led, as well as promoting emerging regional and national choreographers, composers, and designers. His teaching career is wide ranging, from master classes at universities such as Yale and Park Point, to professional companies, dance schools and academies throughout the United States.