Monday, September 24, 2007

Busy Weekend, Part Three

Seia Rassenti and Joseph Watson dancing "Softly As I Leave You"

My immediate response to seeing the sculptural books by Daniel Essig and the fibers at the Mint Museum was to stitch....and stitch and stitch....while trying to come to terms with my own work. I could easily have swirled down into the pits of depression but I didn't. Mental "pep" talks and Ohio State football on ESPN saved me (we won handily). Soon it was time to dress for ballet at Charlotte's Blumenthal Theater.

The program, called Manhattan Moves South, was to be in three parts: Night Creature from "Ailey Celebrates Ellington" (1974) in three movements; Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs; and a new work called Artifice by the company's resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden.

After taking our excellent, nearly dead center mezzanine seats, Steve and I noticed that Seia Rassenti, Mathias' classmate, would appear in only the last two numbers. Then, just before the curtain rose, there was an announcement of several casting changes...I couldn't quite "get" all the substitutions but...Seia would be in the first piece as well. We were thrilled, of course, but knew these sort of changes often meant a dancer was injured.

I really liked the first piece. I like the flow, the spacing, but especially the costumes which were fabulously dyed by Elissa Tatigikis Iberti. I'm guessing they were rented from Alvin Ailey. Some of the lines just didn't look right to me...because I thought a couple was actually missing...later, I learned I was right.

North Carolina Dance Theater is a small but wonderfully funded company. There are only eighteen professional dancers. There are six paid members of North Carolina Dance Theater Two...what many other companies consider "apprentices" or unpaid positions. The company keeps its numbers small but pays well enough to attract real quality and years of loyal dancing. I started to worry about the opening announcements...the possible injuries.

I was surprised about the final piece. In past years, I haven't much cared for Dwight Rhoden's choreography and this work started with John Adam's music (I think) which might be the source of my dissatisfaction. Fortunately, the dancing was wonderful, the partnering was interesting, and the overall effect wasn't too serious making it quite enjoyable.

The highlight of the night, of course, was Nine Sinatra Songs. The Oscar de la Renta costuming added more glamor than I anticipated...and I was anticipating a lot of everything. Afterall, I'm seeing this same piece in about two London with Birmingham Royal Ballet and (hopefully) a cast including Mathias.

It opened with Seia and her partner Joseph Watson dancing "Softly As I Leave You". It was wonderful, infatiguating, and set the stage for Nicholle Rochelle and David Ingram's "Strangers in the Night", a sexy, faux-tango to be followed by Traci Gilchrest and Ian Grosh as charming, inebriated party goers with some of the most clever lifts and twists I've ever seen in "One For My Baby (and One More for the Road)". All three couples glided on and off the stage for "My Way".

I would have been happy had I only seen this much of the continued and grew even more delightful with Anna Gerberich (or maybe someone else?) and Justin VanWeest in "Somethin' Stupid" and Kara Wilkes with Jhe W. Russell in "All the Way"....or, at least that's who I thought I saw. I don't know these dancers quite as well as I do Rebecca Carmazzi...who appeared with Randolph Ward in "Forget Domani".

Seeing Rebecca, one of my favorite dancers in the company, in this role was exciting. First, Mathias is currently "second cast" for this section. Therefore, it was the part I most wanted to see. But, Rebecca was listed for "That's Life"...the dance generally reserved for the principal dancers....(sure, NCDT is an ensemble company...but everyone knows who generally gets the principal parts, who's been with the company longer, who's got more experience, etc.) Then it dawn on me...we hadn't seen Mia Cunningham....she was cast in the Alvin Ailey piece too but didn't appear. As much as I wanted to really concentrate on the flashy dancing and the adorable, fru-fru pink dress, I couldn't help but to wonder about "That's Life".

Sometimes, an injury is an opportunity....and Seia Rassenti had been Rebecca's understudy. She commanded the stage in a too-die-for red gown and in Sasha Janes' arms right down to the last note and on into the reprise of "My Way" along with the other couples as a finale. Seia was the last to bow, center stage, and all smiles. I had tears in my eyes and hoped her parents had witnessed this two evenings before.

Steve and I took Seia to dinner. Unfortunately, her Mom and Dad came for Thursday's performance...Mia had been able to dance. We dropped them a short email this of heart-felt congratulations for their daughter. The evening was capped off when a nice lady approached our table to shake Seia's hand. Blushing, Seia confessed that she'd never been picked out of a crowd like's to many more occasions.

No comments: