A dance can change the way you hear a familiar piece of music. A skilled choreographer can use a subtle movement to draw your attention deep into the song, to a sound you’d never noticed,or move the dancers as if their bodies are singing, keeping you wrapped in the melody.
Carolina Ballet’s Rhapsody, a new ballet choreographed by Zalman Raffael and the opening number for the current program, is this kind of dance. A charmingly fairy-like Cecilia Iliesiu danced the part of a young girl, a confused outsider among people. Jan Burkhard portrayed the same person, more mature, but still an outsider. The pair, in shades of blue, pass and acknowledge each other in confusion. Partnering alternately with Marcelo Martinez, it could be understood as a love triangle, and maybe it is on some level, with reclaimed youth winning out. Even with the subject matter of self-acceptance and belonging, it’s a light and fun dance that mimics the laughing clarinet in the music, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Raffael’s choreography is perfectly musical, but not literally lyrical, so the movement doesn’t just follow the melody, but fills every nook and cranny of the music.
Glazunov Pas de Deux, a classical pas de deux by Artistic Director Robert Weiss, paints the picture we see in our minds when we think ballet. Lilyan Vigo and Richard Krusch both have such pleasant and cheerful appearances, and they look completely unaffected by the demanding lifts, leaps, and turns. A royal sort of grace and dignity is with this pair as they dance.
The two works by Lynne Taylor-Corbett show her diverse skill at moving bodies and stories. The first, December Songs, has a New York, I Love You feel, telling short stories of love and loneliness as people pass a bench in a city park. Each dance is unique with some drama and some comedy. Randi Osetek lets down her hair in relief at the end of a relationship. Yevgeny Shlapko performs a solo in his delightfully odd and jazzy style. The live vocals are sung by Lauren Kennedy, who stands onstage as a narrator telling her own sad story, moving among the memories. Adding to the intimacy is piano accompaniment by Glenn Mehrbach. Music and lyrics were written by Maury Yeston. At times the lyrics are too literal and simplistic. But, they do the job, paired with the dances, of reminding us that everyone longs to for a connection with others.
Code of Silence, Taylor-Corbett’s second work of the night, is a breathtaking finale for the program. This is a must see. Taylor-Corbett tackles the human rights work of Amnesty International in a moving way. The men, wearing drab jumpsuits under harsh lighting, are remarkable in their portrayal of suffering through violent convulsions. The women, clearly separate from the men’s plight, are sympathetic and affected as they record the violations they witness. At times the women are drawn into the anxiety and fear-driven chaos; other times they offer apprehensive comfort. They bring a light to the stage, and that light goes with them when they leave. Speaking of the light, it plays such an important role in this dance that Ross Kolman’s design can’t go without mention. As I stood to applaud, I was thinking of when I could see this again.
The identity of the Carolina Ballet is strong at the midpoint of their fifteenth season. There is a visible reverence to the history and tradition of ballet together with a fearless and limitless drive to present innovative and important work.
Review by Denise Cerniglia
You can see December Songs/Code of Silence/Rhapsody February 15-17 and February 23-24 at Fletcher Opera Theater. Visit Carolina Ballet for times and tickets. Then come back and tell us what you liked!
You can see more pictures from the show at ArtsViewNC