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Flash Review 2, 3-5: Building Ballet
New Points from New Choreographers on Pointe

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung

For its eleventh season, Ballet Builders Saturday presented at Florence Gould Hall a number of very good works by eight choreographers working in the ballet lexicon. Directed by founders Ruth Chester and Michael Kraus, the show comprised psychological studies, technical showcases, and some ambitiously-scaled works which met with mixed success. The reduced reliance on technical ballets with large casts was a welcome trend, as was a move away from strictly balletic work.

Robert Atwood's "A Cinderella Sweet" led the list of psychologically probing works involving smaller casts. Wearing a suit, Atwood stood, emblematic of authority and unspoken power, at an apex of light in which Christine McMillan gracefully shifted through a number of roles a female might face -- playful child, acquiescent dance partner -- until she broke down under the weight of expectations. In "Unforgettable Moment of Being," Mana Hashimoto, who is blind, performed a moving, expressionistic duet with Adriana Jacinto, who wrapped Hashimoto in a cocoon of white fabric so that we could sense the rough shape of her private agony.

"The Cave," by Davis Robertson (who danced with Taryn Kaschock and Brian McSween, all three of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago) employed mid-stage scrims with backlighting to cast giant silhouettes, to wonderful effect. With one torso and six arms, they resembled a lobster; as individuals, with the aid of the setting, even simply separating their raised, pointed feet they took on dramatic power. They emerged to dance in front of the scrims, making modern shapes full of angles and concave torsos. Mucuy Bolles performed her solo, "Antigamente," to captivating Portuguese music. Bolles used her sinuous, attenuated, elastic movement to create a romantic mood piece, implicating us as voyeurs at the last moment with a darting glance.

The more technical ballets used larger casts. In "Overtones," Jamey Leverett successfully combined challenging technique, excellently performed by her sharp dancers, with a bright emotiveness that blended the traditional with the contemporary. Leverett is formerly of Rochester City Ballet, and dancers Erin Bellis, Alexandra Johnson, Yoshi Kobayashi, Sara Lane, Natalia Mallety-Mastin, Hill Marlow, Hillian Nealon, and Jessica Tretter are members of that company. In contrast, Elie Lazar's "Suite Fragments" immediately felt anachronistic. The fairy princess costumes -- white, knee length tutus and tiaras -- merely set up the audience's high (or other) expectations, never to be approached by the choreography. The steps were overly simplistic for the corps sections, while the partnering sections were exercises in crisis management. Dancers were Ivanova Aguilar, Monica Arroyo de la Vega, Justin Koertgen, Tina Lee, Atsuko Minoaur, Juliana Scarpelli, and Rachel Sullivan, of the Joffrey Ensemble Dancers.

The program closed with two pieces modelled more along the lines of contemporary modern dance rather than those familiar in ballet. "Blue," by Andrew Giday, was an entertaining, funny, four-part work to bluesy music played by the Kronos Quartet. It featured Daniel Alvarez, Aya Belsheim, Marie-Eve Lapointe, and Caroline Sicard as a big, hip-swivelling creature; they moved swiftly through other team-dependent poses, catching one another's weight or lifting one dancer. A duet was performed by Alvarez with Belsheim carving repeated circles around him, like a small bird tethered to a tree. "Blue" showed Giday's ingenuity and light-hearted touch, and his dancers exuded a matching confidence and pleasure.

"Raga," by Brian Simerson, ended the evening. A manically-paced ensemble work to music by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass, the work contained twice as many steps as the dancers could capably execute. This excess of energy and wasted movement was disappointing after a largely entertaining program. Performers were Dominic Hodal, Adriana Jacinto, Summer Lindsey, Steven Marshall, Kara Oculato, Sara Scully, and Simerson.

 

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