Although choreography by George Balanchine has been a part of the Carolina Ballet repertoire for all of its fourteen seasons, these performances continue to be a rare treat. Unlike the work in literature or on canvas of great artists, a dance is fleeting. On opening night of Carolina Ballet’s A Balanchine Celebration the dancers captured the clean and intricate lines, the fast footwork connected intimately to the music, and the moods, from sublime to playful, that make Balanchine’s work stand out above so many others.
The show opened with Apollo, a dramatic portrayal of the Greek god with his muses. With the self-admiring, lute-playing god, this ballet might run the risk of appearing ridiculous less skillfully danced. Timour Bourtasenkov danced the part of Apollo with sensitively commanding and statuesque poise. Power seemed to alternate between Bourtasenkov and the muses, Alicia Fabry, Lindsay Purrington, and Lilyan Vigo, whose smooth entanglements were mesmerizing.
The fun and lively pas de deux Tarantella followed, with spritely Margaret Severin-Hansen and Pablo Javier Perez. Valse Fantaisie is everything that is good about a waltz with arms and long chiffon skirts whipping about and encircling the dancers like wisps of smoke. Jan Burkhard and Richard Krusch were classically vibrant, accented by a corps of four flowing in perfect unison.
Agon (Pas de Deux) is a visually striking dance featuring the extension, focus and control of Lara O’Brien and Eugene Barnes. The pair was perfectly suited to the geometrically and musically challenging choreography. This is a piece of modern art with its pleasant but unemotional expressions and monochromatic aesthetic matched to the music of Igor Stravinsky.
The last piece, Who Cares? , is a whimsical ballet of fifteen short dances set to well-known George Gershwin tunes. Margaret Severin-Hansen and Gabor Kapin were masters of subtlety in the tender pas de deux The Man I Love, an intimate conversation between lovers. In Embraceable You Lilyan Vigo was exquisite, joining Kapin for an elegant uptown pas de deux. Jan Burkhard was full of youthful enthusiasm, exploding from the floor in the solo I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise. The company came together for the finale, I Got Rhythm. Super-fast turns and jumps exposed flashes of pink from the bottom layers of the dancers’ skirts designed by Steven Ruben.
Randi Osetek’s ease of movement and high extensions were consistently eye-catching in Who Cares?, even with fourteen fast-moving dancers on stage. The live musical accompaniment provided by pianist Karl Moraski, drummer Scott Lane, and bassist Robbie Link kept the energy high. The genuine smiles throughout the ballet suggested the dance was as much a gift for the dancers as for the audience.
This is a sophisticated program, well suited to high-brow tastes. But there is no reason to wait for a story ballet to introduce children to classical dance. People, including kids, who like art in any form will love these ballets. The dances are short, interesting and unexpected. They are bright and colorful, and musically and aesthetically interesting and smart. These dances might open the door for great conversations about the place of history and literature in art, and about a person using what he or she finds interesting in the world to create something of lasting impact.
You can see A Balanchine Celebration weekends through October 28. Get tickets and information here.
Review and photos by Denise Cerniglia
See more photos from the show at http://artsviewnc.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/a-balanchine-celebration/