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Ballet Nouveau Presents Some Things From Appalachia To The Moon
For the past two weekends (April 16 to 25, 2010) Colorado's Ballet Nouveau has presented "Somewhere American," which looks closely at Appalachia and beyond - all the way to the moon. Choreographers Garrett Ammon and Lauri Stallings took uniquely different approaches in that exploration, with Ammon staying with songs by The Stanley Brothers, which to me speak from Appalachia and all the joys sorrows and spirituality resident in its people. Stallings used a variety of music and music styles, and exploited the limits of the stage's curtains, and side legs, even moving some of her work into the audiences. Both choreographers reached audiences well. So well that on occasion they got standing ovations.
Ammon's "Hemlocks and Primroses" included an array of short works set to songs about love, break ups, sadness, joy, life, and Jesus that seemed to come right out of the hills of the Central Appalachians and Let The Circle Be Unbroken. Throughout the work he used the amazing stage presence and technique resident in Ballet Nouveau dancers in very few solos - one notable one danced by Meredith Strathmeyer - lots of duets, and ensembles set on the entire company, and on the male and female components of it. Throughout the sections there were a myriad of complex and exciting lifts, and choreography that went from the floor to the highest points of those lifts. Ammon's work often stops in total stillness, and that stillness frames the next explosive move, pull, or lift. All the sections read well, save maybe the final work to "Amazing Grace," where stage right to to stage left canons of phrasing and lifts did not embody the poignancy in that song. Despite its length, and the relative constancy in the music score, the work never exceeded performance life and kept audience totally engaged.
Stallings' "On The Porch" was as different from Ammon's work as is probably possible. No pretty phrasing - minimal lifts - eclectic music choices - and the stage as usually conformed was only a place to begin. Well .... not really ... the work actually began with one dancer performing an undulating and sensuous phrase over and over again in front of a closed curtain, both in silence and to varied segments of music. The curtain eventually opened and a huge ensemble work ensued with one dancer - Damien Patterson - standing stock still down stage left. In moments - many moments - Patterson exploded into movement and the ensemble became a bass background to his solo. A side leg curtain moved into the performance space, with waiting dancers visible in that wing. Then the dancers moved way down stage - off stage - some into the audience. The curtain closed. The performance was now so much more intimate. The curtain opened part way. Some dancers moved through that opening, and then the curtain opened wide again and an ensemble performed interesting movement inventions in front of a video projection of a rocket launch. Then of astronauts walking on the moon. As the work ended the audience went wild in approval. Not an "insider" audience. A real honest to God audience of real honest to God people.
"Somewhere American" closes the 2009/2010 official BNC season. But not quite. The BNC dancers will present their own dance concert on May 9th - in the round - at the BNC studios in Broomfield. I'm sure if you can find it and get there you will love it. 3001 Industrial Lane. And check out their 2010/2011 season.
Donald K. Atwood
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