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Flash Flashback, 11-5: Not-'Nut's for the New Millenium"
Ballet to the Future with Eliot Feld
By Jennie Sussman
Copyright 1999 Jennie Sussman
Holiday "NoTCRACKER" season is simply not the NUTCRACKER. The traditional
battles between toy soldiers and mice, the dancing sweets, and the
dreamy journeys through the snow are replaced with unique works
by Eliot Feld where down-home country clashes with the upcoming
millenium. Even though the works were choreographed over two different
decades, the contrasting themes within each piece seem to anticipate
the turn-of-the-century, challenging our views of classical ballet.
Beyond breaking barriers in the world of classical ballet--by placing
dancers in two different-colored ballet slippers, for instance--Feld
has overcome urban obstacles by creating a strong program that recognizes
and nurtures public school children with a special talent and passion
for dance. Ballet Tech combines dance and academic training to give
city children the chance to become professional ballet dancers.
piece in Tuesday's program (Program C), the 1998 "Simon Sez," embodies
Feld's vision by incorporating company members and student dancers.
The dancers casually enter the stage and continue to warm up. After
a few glances, acknowledgements and waves hello, they surround a
lighting technician as he sits down on a pulley, carrying him up
to a spotlight that he manually maneuvers throughout the entire
piece. Nickemil Concepcion enthusiastically opened the piece Tuesday
with a vibrancy that captivated the audience. Following the solo,
the ballet becomes chaotic and overwhelming for the eye. There is
so much to see. The rest of the company and the younger dancers
enter. As the company precisely and elegantly executes intricate
spatial patterns, the children begin connecting colored Lego-like
beads to form a giant Rubik's cube. The next thing I knew there
was a white sheet wrapped around the soloist and one of the young
boys. My eyes continually shifted from one part of the stage to
the next. Each section is so intriguing, but at times I felt visually
overwhelmed. Sharp lines and complex rhythmical patterns characterize
the movement. Against the back of the stage are wooden bars which
the dancers effortlessly jump on, landing either in a hand-stand
or in second position, displaying their strength and virtuosity.
They continue to dance with the wall as their support. In the midst
of the piece, more stagehands--actually, dancing hands--enter and
change the set. They build a large cube from colored metal poles
echoing what the younger dancers have previously constructed. The
children climb on top of the tower as the dancing hands set it spinning.
Simultaneously, the male dancers perform an exhilarating sequence
in which they travel to the front of the stage, jump high onto suspended
poles and whirl around in one quick motion, sending the audience
into a cyclone of energy and excitement. The lively music and animated
facial expressions create a light-hearted and fun atmosphere. The
brightly colored costumes with their techno-inspired, futuristic
designs enhance the piece. "Simon Sez" seems to layer a theme of
repetition. In addition to the repetition of particular phrases,
the same colored cube is built twice. On Tuesday, after the piece
ended I overheard an audience member ask, "What was the point of
building the giant cube at the end? Wouldn't it have been easier
to just roll it out?" I couldn't help but laugh. We never seem to
take the easier path in life. However, I felt that Feld was trying
to illustrate that what we build on a small scale ultimately grows
and expands, affecting us on a much larger scale. "Simon Sez" displays
an innovative use of props and lighting.
was followed by the 1999 "Apple Pie," performed by students from
the Ballet Tech School. Both the music and costumes give this work
a country flavor. The piece opens with a group of male and female
dancers that enthusiastically perform intertwining line patterns
and gracefully partner one another. The end result is an intersection
between the worlds of country line dancing and classical ballet.
The dancers execute each sequence with a refreshing vitality and
youthful spirit. The intricate, complex spatial patterns appeared
to naturally unfold into pinwheels that continued to divide into
smaller numbers. The most impressive aspect of the piece is the
lightness of the dancers, who seem to just effortlessly coast about
the stage. Feld successfully molds his dancers to execute his work.
ended with the 1984 "The Jig Is Up." In this work the traditional
Irish music contrasts with the tattered, shredded costumes reflecting
the fashion trends of the 80s. The piece incorporates both playful
partnering and line dancing edged with a classical and seductive
twist. Each partnering section seems to play on a sense of circular
motion, whether in the arm patterns or in daring lifts that create
this imaginary circle in the air. The most moving section of the
piece Tuesday was a solo, performed by Lindsay Yank. The way she
circled her upper torso with her hair trailing behind evoked an
image of power and strength. Her body then collapsed into a contraction
with her upper body hanging limply over her legs. She danced with
intense passion and moving dynamics. The trio danced by Ha-Chi Yu,
Christopher Torres and Sean Scantlebury was captivating. The high
energy level of the dancers and complex lifts amazed the audience.
The intriguing lighting design ranges from washes of blue to bronze
and then to silhouettes. The Jig Is Up is an energetic, playful
and vigorous work.
Since I had
never seen Ballet Tech perform, I had no idea what to expect; definitely
not "The Nutcracker."; but the NoTCRACKER.
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