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Colorado Ballet's "Tribute" - Challenges Met At Newman Center 3/30/2012
Any new ballet is a test of a dance company. A premiere is an extra-difficult test. And a program of three premieres amounts to tempting fate.
After all, the dancers must master a plethora of new steps, adjust to new costumes, remember new music and do so at a record pace. In a way "Tribute," the program title of the Colorado Ballet Company works two ways: officially given to the evening to acknowledge the place of notable women in the company's history (from its late founders to teachers and supporters in the dance community) and the growing recognition of women choreographers, but unofficially to the dedication of the company members themselves. Despite the qualms surrounding the challenge, company artistic director Gil Boggs seemed notably confident whether feeling those qualms or not. In many ways his bet and the company's challenge served to underline the fully professional qualities of the Colorado Ballet Company that demands respect from audiences and professional colleagues alike.
"Archetypes" opened the evening, a somewhat relentless piece by Emery LeCrone to equally relentless music by Terry Riley. No scenery, basic costumes (leotards and tights; the major soloists - Maria Mosina and Chandra Kuykendall in identical and flashy red leotards) and uncompromising logic in its movement.
There is a kind of geometry at work here: of balanced sequences of steps that deliberately move in and out of synchrony; of blocks of dancers (one group of eight men; another of eight women) each seeming to contain (or is it cage?) the soloists, and unexpected uniting of the male and female "gangs" into more conventional corps de ballet background. Brief episodes introduce Dana Benton, Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Dmitry Trubchanov.
The style adopted by LeCrone is fairly classical in its formality, but with the neo-classical digressions favored - developed, actually - by George Balanchine and adopted whether consciously or not by many choreographers ever since: the blatant display of a ballerina's shapely leg as though posing for admiration, shuffling steps done on the heels of the feet, speed and deliberately high extensions.
"Traveling Alone" by Amy Seiwert proved striking in its highly original ports de bras. Classical ballet emphasizes curves, strict placement and lyrical tempo. "Alone" emphasizes straight arms, angular placement and abrupt tempo - also odd quiverings (twitches?) of arm or leg. Little jumps in place come out of nowhere, convulsive almost. Often the dancers stand with feet firmly forward, not turned out, bending slightly from the waist as though tugged by an unseen grip trying to pull them along - the "traveling" aspect of the title? An episode of four couples caught my eye though officially the soloists were Dane Benton with Luis Valdes and they certainly were riveting. The ultimate mood of "Traveling" suggested both nostalgia and isolation, reinforced by the music of Max Richter.
Jodie Gates proved the most traditional of the three choreographers in her "Embellish," music (a pastiche) by Mozart. The costumes by Christine Darch suggested both the classical tutu and the gauzy long "omantic" ones in a clever combination: a modified "pancake" that was more like a thick ruffle around the waist and a pair of trailing panels that flowed behind.
No set, but this time a split black backdrop through which dancers were more likely to enter than from the more traditional wings. The effect was more like a video's fade-in, fade-out than obvious plotting. To this the lighting design of Elisha Griego was an integral part of the whole.
In some ways this proved a decorative work, one that had virtuosity aplenty albeit without obvious departures from the ballet vocabulary, spectacle when the full company materialized on stage, and obvious display from the soloists: Maria Mosina with Dimitry Trubchanov, Sharon Wehner and Christopher Ellis, and Chandra Kuykendall and Sean Omandam. Cameos featured Asuka Sasaki with Kevin Gael Thomas and Casey Dalton with Adam Still - corps de ballet members with definite promise.
In so many ways the whole evening became more than the sum of its parts: the in-your-face use of non-standard ballet moves though coupled with very traditional pointe technique, inventive music choices and the obvious dedication of the company members themselves to new ideas while preserving the classics seen in other performances. The company has obviously arrived; now to solidify the national attention it deserves.
© Copyright World Dance Reviews 2012