Dancers. Choreography. Skill. Artistry. These are the simple ingredients in Carolina Ballet’s original homage to the French painter Claude Monet. A ballet more abstract than more familiar and traditional ones such as the Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty, it is complete in its simplicity.
The first half, Picnic on the Grass, with original choreography by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, was inspired by Monet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. The dancers enter the stage in small groups and take a place, forming a picture against a Monet blue backdrop. Taylor Corbett’s choreography is compelling, as it explodes from moments of stillness into a playful lawn party, and back again. The moments of perfect stillness are as alive as the most playful scenes, and create a breathtaking picture.
Erica Sabatini is cute and playful in the part of A Flirt, bringing a whimsical touch to the scene. Alicia Fabry, as Alice, stands out as elegant and graceful. The Host, danced by Oliver Béres and the Mysterious Uncle, danced by Yevegeny Shlapo are at once graceful and athletic. A Young Suitor and His Rival, danced by Nikolai Smirnov and Zalman Raffael respectively, perform some very impressive intricate footwork.
The second half, The Gardens at Giverny, was choreographed by Artistic Director Robert Weiss. In his own description of the ballet Weiss says he was “entranced” by Monet’s depictions of clouds reflecting in the water. Entrancing is exactly the right word to describe his ballet.
In Part I, Jan Burkhard dances The Woman under the Lilacs to Ernest Chausson’s aria, Fleur des Eaux. This is Burkhard at her very finest. She fills the physical space of the stage with her long and graceful movement the way a powerful opera fills the room with sound.
The entire second half is soothing and meditative, but the most quiet comes from Part II, where Attila Bongar dances the Artist and Randi Osetek, A Cloud. They share the stage with The Water, Adam Schiffer, Oliver Béres, and Eugene Barnes. The dancers’ controlled movements give the impression they are moving through water, drawing the audience into a dream world.
Lilyan Vigo as an Iris is soft and lovely, creating an image of lines that continue like ribbons from the ends of her fingers and toes. She is matched in grace and skill by her partner, Alain Molina, who dances the part The Artist in Part IV.
In Part V, Lara O’Brien and Marcelo Martinez, as The Woman with a Parasol and The Artist, dance a beautiful and serene pas de deux with Debussy’s Claire de Lune. In Part VI, we are taken back into the water with Melissa Podcassy and Timour Bourtasenkov as a pair of Water Lilies.
The finale, with Marcelo Martinez as the Artist and the entire company returning to the stage, is a short-lived (maybe too short) moment of colorful brilliance to bring the audience gently out of the meditation.
The costume design, lighting and scene design cannot go without mention, as these things help to create a whole seamless picture. The costumes, designed by William Ivey Long and David Heuvel, are colorful and soft with flowing chiffon, blending or contrasting perfectly with the backdrop, designed by Jeff A.R. Jones. From soft Monet blues to deep velvety reds, the scenes themselves all have depth and movement. Sometimes the colors on the backdrop seem to breathe, an effect that must be captured in part by the lighting designer, Ross Kolman.
A dance production involves so many artists working together, and Carolina Ballet’s Monet Impressions, simple and pure, is a moving exhibit of dance and visual artists.
Monet Impressions has three shows remaining: Saturday, April 16 at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday April 17 at 2pm.