Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ballet: Charlotte's "Natural Beauty" and Columbia's "Swan Lake"

I'm far behind in blogging. This week has been crammed with framing work, events, and other responsibilities. I will continue to post images and recollections from California but will mingle these with current impressions, including the ballet performances we saw over the busy weekend.

Steve and I went to Charlotte on Thursday night for North Carolina's Dance Theatre's opening of "Natural Beauty". The program consisted of three works: Balanchine's "Rubies"; Nacho Duato's "Na Floresta", and the world premier of NCDT's resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden's "Set Rise Fall". The attendance was dismal.

The opening number was quite nice and we were pleased to watch Seia Rassenti perform beautifully in one of the supportive roles. (Seia graduated with Mathias from the Kirov.) Although I haven't ever warmed to Balanchine, such a piece might convert me if I ever see it "properly". It had "fire", precision, and lovely sequences of dance. It was, however, marred with a lack-luster leading male. He just didn't seem the "Balanchine" type...whatever that is....I've heard the phrase so often that it just seems to fit here even though I really don't know what a "Balanchine" dancer is....I'm just fairly sure this guy isn't one! Though a nice ballet; it seemed spoiled.

The second work was easily my favorite of the evening. Perhaps it was the music by Heitor Villa-Lobos or the lighting. Perhaps I just like some sort of scenery...this was minimal but effective. Perhaps I just liked the quality of the dance. I've always liked watching Rebecca Carmazzi but Nicholle Rochelle was quite captivating. In fact, all the ladies were excellent and the men seemed equally strong.

Neither Steve nor I liked the final piece at all. It seemed to be trying too hard to impress. It was nearly frantic with activity and never balanced with any moment of calm. The music was the main distraction. The drum beats were monotonous and too loud. It went on and on and on. I also disliked the props and costumes. Unfortunately, because this dance ended the program, we left on a sour note, disappointed.

Amazingly, however, "Swan Lake" saved the weekend in the category of dance! Steve, Alex, and I all went and none of us expected to be impressed. Columbia City Ballet has rarely performed classical work that we've really enjoyed. Of course, the task is a difficult one. There's never live music and there's generally too many little kids cast. In a small town with two professional companies to support, there's not much chance to remedy the first problem. Yet, happily the second one was not an issue. As a result, it was far easier to see the corps de ballet. They were really worth seeing. In fact, they were undoubtedly the best part of the production. They seemed well rehearsed and very together, working in unison and with the music.

We were happy to see Willie Moore dancing very well. He stays nicely in character at all times, pointing his feet to exit...not just walk off the stage like some of the other men. The swans were all very good and convincing. Kerrie Anne Dunn, however, stood out as one of the lead swans, and the "little swans" or cygnets were down right terrific.

As far as the leads go, I'm just not sure what to think of Victoria Cholkas' performance. I know it should have been better but I also know it isn't fair to compare it to the dancers I've seen from larger, world-class companies. Basically, she turned in a nice evening in the demanding dual role of Odette/Odile. Sara Mearns, soloist at NYCB who got her "big break" as a corps member plucked to perform this part, was in the audience.

Peter Kozak danced as Prince Siegfried. I do know what to think about his performance. It was terrible, pure and simple. One does not have to have seen an international caliber dancer in this role for comparison. I've seen plenty of students turn in better variations. Although Peter looks every inch the part, he didn't dance like it. He was sloppy. His partnering was thankfully adequate but otherwise he wasn't dancing like a principal. Jose Serrano, the other male principal, was injured but I don't think he was suppose to dance anyway.

Fortunately, the productions was still more wonderful than poor. In fact, I recommended Saturday's matinee and evening performance to others. Hopefully, some went as the attendance was sadly low.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your review for Friday night, however, I wish you could have seen Saturday night. I do not typically go to two nights of a ballet, but I knew that Vicki had more to offer. She was a totally different dancer on Saturday night and was a pleasure to watch. I also agree with your comment on the younger kids being in the ballet. I loved that they weren't on stage just to bring their parents to the ballet. I was very impressed with the pre-professional group....they danced very well and were so together! I thought they out-danced some of the corps dancers. There are definately a few stand-outs that are headed for professional careers. Saturday night was like a different company on stage from Friday night. Love your comments!

Susan said...

Thanks for the comment "anonymous". I really don't get very many so the ones I do get are really special. I wish I could have seen Saturday and would have likely gone again had it not been for the Trustus charity art event. In the past, I probably would never have gone to see the same ballet on two different nights either. Yet, I say Cyrano twice in one day and it was fantastic both times....and different but of the casting. I saw San Francisco Ballet's Sleeping Beauty (likely my favorite along with Giselle) on two consecutive Sundays. Again, a fantastic experience and two different leads. Like most people, I've seen dozens of Nutcrackers, several each season. I think I'm about ready to make it a regular thing....seeing the same production more than once from a company, even with the same cast. I guess that's really the beauty in live/performance arts! Thanks again for commenting!

Anonymous said...

I also wish you could have seen the ballet on Saturday night. Did you read the review in The State Newspaper?

Susan said...

Thank you "anonymous" for the tip on the review. Steve and I scanned the newspaper on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for it. It is ashame that such articles appear when they do....late! Too late to help fill the seats in the auditorium. Too late to help build an audience. Watching dress rehearsal and making the deadline at the paper (whenever that is) would be ideal, but this is Columbia. I tried to keep that in mind when I originally wrote this post. Afterall, it was only the Sunday before that I saw Yuan Yuan Tan's Aurora in San Francisco where a "releve" (if that's what you call it when the dancer balances on one pointe!) was a split second longer than one could possibly think such a position could be held---obviously the conductor was watching carefully, holding the next beat and it all felt like a weightless moment going over a hill on a rollercoaster---perfectly amazing. There I saw the definition of extension and picture-perfect positions. Even a ballet-idiot like me can tell that this was WORLD CLASS. I've listened to dancers discuss the subtlties of the dual the characterization is "suppose" to be built, expressed, and how these emotions are conveyed traditionally. I cannot remember it all, but I've seen it twice (Graz, Austria and Washington, DC) with the Kirov performing Swan Lake. Then, I have to remember, this is Columbia. Victoria was very lovely....for Columbia, she was down-right good. Maybe, she was even "world class" on Saturday night. In the end, I find it sad that everyone stands in ovation for every production given by every organization and the review comes out days after the show closes!