Fort Wayne Ballet Love Dance

David Ingram talks about the Fort Wayne Ballet's production of "Love Dance" that the group will perfomr on Valentines Day in the newly opened ArtsLab at the Auer Center in downtown Fort Wayne. Journal Gazette video by Chad Ryan.

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If you go
What: Fort Wayne Ballet’s “Love Dance”
When: 8 and 10 p.m. today; Auer Academy of Fort Wayne Ballet dedication at 7 p.m.
Where: Auer Center ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.
Admission: $20 general admission, $40 VIP which includes champagne, chocolates and roses; call 422-4226 or go to
Juanita Araque dances through a section of the Valentine’s Day performance that she and members of the Fort Wayne Ballet will host at the ArtsLab on Main Street today. The performance will include some non-traditional intimate ballet and contemporary dance.

Putting love on display

Fort Wayne Ballet dares intimate dance

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Ernesto Lea Place, top, and Jordan Stevens perform an entire dance with their lips touching. Fort Wayne Ballet’s Executive and artistic director Karen Gibbons-Brown hopes it will challenge dancers and audience members alike.

The professional dancers of Fort Wayne Ballet will bare it all today. Well, as much they are allowed to bare for a PG-rated performance.

Karen Gibbons-Brown, executive director and artistic director, says “Love Dance” not only marks the ballet’s debut at the new Auer Center ArtsLab, it also makes way for the intimate black box series the company will debut next season. The versatile theater can be outfitted with several staging and seating options for experimentation and exploration of movement that Gibbons-Brown says is necessary for a dancer’s professional growth.

“What’s been fun about it is that for so long we have thought about the proscenium arch (of a traditional stage) as where the dance happens,” she says. “For us, it allows the focus to be more on the movement and the lighting as opposed to the distance and the costumes. The focus is not on big, rich velvety costumes with full-beaded work as it would be for ‘The Nutcracker’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ It’s a little more minimalist.”

“Love Dance” is a collection of modern, classical and avant garde styles of dance depicting a variety of love-centric stories. The VIP seating offers a floor-side view of the performance, along with champagne, roses and chocolates. The dances range from a flamenco solo to a preview of the classic balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet”; the company will perform the entire ballet in March.

Principal dancer David Ingram, who is transitioning into his new role as artistic associate, says it was important to tell the story of different phases of love from infatuation to obsession to actual love.

“We want to offer different avenues of love from your first experience to maybe your last experience,” he says. “The transition of love in its different phases is something I hope to thread throughout the evening.”

Gibbons-Brown says the romantic evening will also be a night of recognition. She says that Fort Wayne Ballet will honor the Edward D. and Ione Auer Foundation by dedicating the company’s dance academy in their name before the first performance. The foundation gave a $1 million contribution for the creation of the ballet’s endowment fund last September.

Gibbons-Brown says the endowment focuses on funding the company’s repertoire, professional dancers, artistic growth and scholarship that the students of the newly named Auer Academy of Fort Wayne Ballet will fall under.

“I think this is one of those things that dance companies aren’t particularly real good at looking at – making sure they grow strategically and they grow beyond a specific director’s time,” she says. “We have been here for 57 years and hope to be here another 65 years plus. It was one of those things we just needed to do to ensure that would happen for generations to follow.”

Gibbons-Brown says “Love Dance” will test the environment for a three-program black box series the company will perform next season.

She says she would like to present one performance consisting of choreography created by the professional dancers; she also would like to present an art installation that uses movement and local artists. She says another performance will consist of shorter repertory pieces that may not translate as well on a traditional stage.

“With this series, the audience is right up at you. We’re not trained as dancers to present that way. In our rehearsal process for this performance, that’s been a little bit different because I will sit right there, and say if you can’t look at me, how are you going to look at your audience? The connection is a little more vulnerable,” she says.

“You don’t have the distance of the orchestra pit. It’s very much one-on-one as if you’re having a conversation. There is a theory that dance is a conversation – and it is. But what is it that you are going to say to your audience? You don’t have that breathing moment to think about what you want to say next. When you’re in a situation like this, what you say is very much in the moment and in some instances, the audience member and the dancer will be very close to one another. That’s a very vulnerable place.”

Gibbons-Brown and Ingram both are interested in seeing how audiences respond to the dancers in this setting, which is why there will be question-and-answer sessions after performances.

“You can often read into movement what you choose to read into it. The question-and-answer piece helps connect to what was the process of creating that piece,” Gibbons-Brown says. “The more people get to know our dancers as people and get to know our repertoire, they will feel more free to ask questions. The more comfortable they are with us, the more comfortable they will become with dance.”