Carolina Ballet’s production of Balanchine’s Rubies, a program of works by George Balanchine presented Oct. 10-27 at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater, offered a diverse sampling of the master choreographer’s style, including some rarely seen ballets. All of the ballets were, for the most part, quite successful.
Raymonda Variations found the corps de ballet, clad in David Heuvel’s lovely seafoam-green, knee-length tutus, executing George Balanchine’s choreography (set to Alexander Glazunov’s Raymonda) with fluid grace. Anchored on each end with group work, at the ballet’s heart are the nine variations performed by five soloists and the principal couple, Lilyan Vigo and Richard Krusch. Vigo’s performance exhibited the beautiful port de bras and soft but precise footwork I have always admired in her dancing, and Krusch danced with an easy grace and especially shone in his petite allegro work. The remaining variations showed off Carolina Ballet‘s depth and breadth of talent: soloists Alicia Fabry and Randi Osetek and corps de ballet members Cecelia Iliesiu, Elise McKinley, and newly promoted Sarah Newton all acquitted themselves well.
Next on the program was Steadfast Tin Soldier, a poignantly sweet dance of love set to George Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants. The short pas de deux found Pablo Javier Perez’s soldier doll and Jan Burkhard’s paper doll courting shyly with a Nutcracker-esque set as backdrop. Burkhard achieved just the right balance between the stiff doll-like movements and the more usual fluid ballet movements. Perez was an ardent, gentle suitor, with a lightness of both heart and step — until the sadly tragic end.
The audience loved Rondo All Zingarese (From the Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet). Led by principal dancers Lara O’Brien and Marcelo Martinez, the gypsy-garbed company blended folk dance with ballet steps to create a lively bit of dancing, set to Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor (orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg). I wish there had been more chemistry between O’Brien and Martinez; and I found O’Brien’s naturally cool, sophisticated demeanor at odds with the fiery passion one usually associates with gypsy dancing. Perhaps for these reasons, I had trouble connecting with the piece.
À La Françaix, with music by Jean Françaix, was cute and funny and featured fine dancing. The ballet opens with Jan Burkhard’s Flirt dancing with two Sailors (danced by Eugene C. Barnes, III and Adam Schiffer). Enter Yevgeny Shlapko’s broadly sketched Dandy (complete with waxed handlebar moustache and tennis racket), who enthusiastically woos the Flirt until he is lured away by Alicia Fabry’s Sylph (dressed in calf-length tutu, wings, and a flower coronet). Fabry’s Sylph channeled all of the ethereal beauties of the romantic ballets — at least when she wasn’t shoving Burkhard aside or smashing her face in. Soon, however, the Sylph exits, and the Dandy returns his attentions to the Flirt. Of course, the Sylph eventually returns, and Burkhard hilariously crumples in defeat — and so it goes with this humorous little ballet. I found it delightful.
I first saw Rubies (set to Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra) performed by the New York City Ballet when I was a young dancer in New York. What I remember mostly from the performance was that Heather Watts was impossibly long and lithe, and her dancing was scintillating. Lara O’Brien’s cool aplomb was more suited to this Balanchine classic than to Rondo, and she used her own incredibly long legs to great effect. She attacked the choreography with power and precision, and the iconic high attitude with head thrown back was striking. Margaret Severin-Hansen and Sokvannara Sar danced the principal couple roles.Sar’s dancing was strong and lively; but in the end, he was no match for Severin-Hansen’s dazzling dancing and sparkling presence. She was on fire Saturday night and owned the stage every time she was on it.
Carolina Ballet was in fine form in this eclectic program of Balanchine works. The corps work was strong throughout the evening, and the principals and soloists showed their mastery of Balanchine’s myriad unique twists on classical ballet vocabulary. Ross Kolman’s lighting was up to its usual high standards, setting just the right mood for each of the very different ballets.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 16th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Lightsey Darst: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/carolina-ballet-opens-season-with-balanchine-program/Content?oid=3743753; Oct. 15th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Denise Cerniglia: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2013/10/carolina-ballets-gypsies-and-jewels/; Oct. 11th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/10/11/3272660/carolina-ballet-scores-with-16th.html.
BALANCHINE’S RUBIES (Carolina Ballet, Oct. 19, 20, 26, and 27 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC).
SHOW: http://www.carolinaballet.com/program/balanchines-rubies and http://www.carolinaballet.com/program/a-balanchine-celebration.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet.
George Balanchine (Russian-American choreographer, 1904-83): http://www.balanchine.org/balanchine/index.html (George Balanchine Foundation) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balanchine_Foundation (Wikipedia).
Viki Atkinson danced professionally in musical theater for a number of years and later shifted her focus to choreographing for theater. Locally, she danced in the North Carolina Theatre productions of Cabaret, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Oklahoma!, and West Side Story. Additional performance credits include Kathy in Company, Peggy in Godspell, and the title role in Gypsy. Later, Atkinson lent her dance expertise to Spectator Magazine, serving as chief dance critic from 1987 to 1999. She also holds a degree in Dance Education from UNC-Greensboro; and she has taught extensively in a variety of settings, including Meredith College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (Petersburg, VA), and the School of Richmond Ballet. She was also on the faculty of the Raleigh School of Ballet for 10 years and directed the dance program at Martin Middle School for four years. Viki Atkinson recently returned to Raleigh after living in Richmond for six years, and is thrilled to be back in North Carolina! To read more of Viki Atkinson’s reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/viki-atkinson/.