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Ballet Theatre Company Will Debut World Premiere Piece ‘Starburst’

Derek Brockington. Photo credit: Thiek Smith

BTC’s resident choreographer Derek Brockington dances for Dance Theater of Harlem.

Derek Brockington. Photo credit: Thiek Smith

By Keith Griffin

The world premiere of a new ballet piece, “Starburst,” will highlight Ballet Theatre Company’s intimate, mixed-repertoire performances, Up Close: Spring that takes place March 9 and 10. Created by BTC’s resident choreographer Derek Brockington, the piece explores three main themes: joy, profound loss, and rediscovery.

Brockington, a 26-year-old full-time member of world-renowned company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, is excited to bring his new dance performance to West Hartford with its mixture of contemporary and classical music.

Derek Brockington working in the studio. Photo credit: Kai Whalen

“I’ve challenged myself to use music composed by black artists,” said Brockington. “I find that the music tells another side of history with personal stories that influence the sound. The music for the first movement is composed by Jessie Montgomery, a prominent new black female composer. This music is bright and full of vitality, representing joy for me. The second piece is composed by William Grant Still, a prolific artist with over 200 rarely used works. As we begin to create the other movements, we will delve into the other themes.” Also featured in the piece is the music of 19th-century composer Florence Beatrice Price.

Brockington hopes his largely suburban audience will embrace different aspects for different people. “I would love for anyone who comes into the room to walk away with an idea that they didn’t have before. I would like to make stuff that makes people think but it doesn’t have to be a specific idea. I try to create concepts that could be interpreted in many ways. So that everyone can maybe find something.”

The music that inspires Brockington’s creativity can come from many places, even below ground. “Music is a big driver for me. I can be listening to music like when I’m walking around the subway. If I find something that gets my feet going automatically I feel like I can create it,” he said.

Derek Brockington. Photo credit: Thiek Smith

Brockington says Black choreographers like him are unusual. It’s driven in part by young Black dancers getting siloed away from ballet to more contemporary dance if they are even presented with opportunities at all. “I’m trying to create representation for people to be able to see themselves as a dancer or choreographer,” he said. “I hope I’m able to be like that for somebody else.”

Stephanie Dattellas, artistic and managing director of Ballet Theatre Company, said many factors came into play when selecting Brockington as BTC’s first resident choreographer. He had performed with BTC going back to 2019 when he danced the role of Snow King in “The Nutcracker.

Derek Brockington working in the studio. Photo credit: Kai Whalen

She said, “Over the years Derek would share his interest in choreography, tell me about any new choreographic ventures he was working on with other dancers, companies, and ask for feedback or guidance in this new area of interest. In 2021, when BTC inaugurated its professional company of resident dancers, I asked Derek to choreograph a piece for our newly established company. The dancers thoroughly enjoyed his process, and I was very impressed with the quality of work that Derek delivered in a short amount of time.”

It’s apparent watching a rehearsal at BTC’s Jefferson Avenue complex that Brockington is mature beyond his years. He has a confident, relaxed style while interacting with his corps of seven professional ballerinas. His approach is more that of a teacher than a taskmaster when showing how steps should be accomplished.

Dattellas said, “As BTC celebrates its 25th anniversary, the timing was finally right to hire a resident choreographer. A special milestone called for a special person – Derek was the first and only artist that came to mind. As a young emerging choreographer, It can be easy to doubt your abilities. Derek has so much potential, and more impressively, a strong, clear, and creative voice. I wanted to provide him an environment where he could be 100% free and confident in his choices to really develop.”

Derek Brockington working in the studio. Photo credit: Kai Whalen

Performance Info

  • Performance 1 – Saturday, March 9 at 2 p.m.
  • Performance 2 – Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m.
  • Performance 3 – Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m.
  • Venue: The Ron and Nancy Compton Studio, 20 Jefferson Ave., West Hartford
  • Tickets: https://27701.danceticketing.com/r/events/
  • Ticket price: $40

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