Billings Symphony Orchestra’s Season : Ballet Dancers Performing Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”

Let’s get to know it.

The Billings Symphony Orchestra’s season opener Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Alberta Bair Theater features four ballet dancers performing Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and dancing to a medley of Gershwin tunes.

Concert cues begin at 6:45 and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

The concert is a chance for the Billings orchestra to collaborate with dancers from the Grand Rapids Ballet Company to tell the story of the cursed princess who is transformed into a swan by a sorcerer.

“Swan Lake” continues to be one of the most popular ballets in the world and Patricia Barker, artistic director for Grand Rapids Ballet, said the story is “provocative and powerful.”

“The audience will be amazed at how this thrilling and beloved story is transformed into a stylish, witty and utterly contemporary tale,” Barker said in an email interview.

BSO director Anne Harrigan said she and Lisa Bollman, a member of the Billings Symphony, spent months adapting the stage set-up to find enough room for four dancers and more than 60 musicians to be on the stage at the same time.

“Every foot was a negotiation, but in the end we made it work,” Harrigan said.

In addition to space issues is the speed the music is played at, Harrigan said. Dancers learn choreography with set steps and typically the ballet director determines how fast or slow the piece of music is played.

“It’s important to replicate that speed as perfectly as possibly or it can have disastrous results for the dancers,” Harrigan said. “Of course, some of the fun is the give and take in the performance, but it needs to be very, very close.”

Barker promises that the concert will be an opportunity for dancers, musicians and ultimately the audience to see something special.

“Dancing to live music is always a special treat for a dancer and, yes, it brings different challenges and plays a significant role in how a dancer phrases a passage of steps,” Barker said.

“Who Cares?” combines 16 songs written by Gershwin between 1924 and 1931, including “Strike Up the Band” “‘S Wonderful” and “I Got Rhythm.” In 1937, Gershwin invited choreographer George Balanchine to work with him on Samuel Goldwyn’s “Follies,” but Gershwin was diagnosed with a brain tumor before he completed the music for the film.

Then, in 1970, Balanchine choreographed “Who Cares?” enlisting Hershey Kay to arrange the music, using Gershwin’s piano arrangements.

Songs were selected to evoke the energy of Manhattan.

“We won’t be doing all of the songs, but a selection of the favorites.”