We went to see Columbia Classical Ballet's opening production on Friday, October 20, 2006. We had to see it then. There was only one showing. It was a "double feature": Carmina Burana with Jekyll and Hyde. It was also Shih-Huai Liang's professional debut. Shih-Huai went to school with Mathias, graduating the year before him but returning as an "apprentice" during Mathias' senior year.
First, let me explain. Unbelievably, there are two professional companies in Columbia, South Carolina. This one is run by Radenko Pavlovich. Mathias started dancing at the other company's school and then switched to this one's school. Our experiences with these schools and companies is twisted, tearful, and miracularously on speaking terms with both artistic directors. (Long story)
Generally, the quality of dancing is better at Columbia Classical Ballet. Unfortunately, none of the quality was obvious in this production. In fact, it was rather dreadful. Rick McCullough was the guest choreographer for Carmina Burana. Too much of it featured the entire company (about twelve dancers) spread across the stage in about three rows. They were all suppose to do the exact same steps at the exact same time, but there was no unison. Some were too early; some were significantly late. It looked under-rehearsed. It was boring.
The set was a slide show. George Mirabal got credit on the program insert. (Perhaps he is a photographer? I'll look that up later!) The images were all very nice but most really didn't relate to Carmina Burana's themes. Sure, the program stated that the ballet was to resonate to 21st century issues and situations. Yet, there were too many images of atomic bomb blasts. Much of Carmina Burana is suppose to deal with personal choices and the difficulites of faith. It just didn't work for me. It was as if the images only related to the mood of the music.
The music was interesting. I would like to know which recordings were used. They were each beautiful but it was obvious that several recordings were spliced together. The editing did not allow adequate time for the "grand pause" right before "O, Fortuna" is reprised. This marred the music entirely.
The audience didn't seem familiar with ballet or the score. They kept trying to clap when there wasn't time or reason. Naturally, some gave a standing ovation. Then we had an intermission.
Jekyll and Hyde is a horrible book. I remember reading it to Alex years ago. How it became a classic is the only mystery in it. The plot really didn't work for ballet either. Some of the dancing was nice but overall, it was weak. Too much of it, like Carmina Burana, was just Mikhail Ronikov showing off a bunch of tricks. There was another standing ovation.
The best part of the evening was seeing Shih-Huai and congratulating him. Afterall, good or bad, this was his first professional show. He seemed very, very pleased that someone had come just to see him dance. We told him we would mail the program to Mathias and we invited him to Thanksgiving dinner.