The 20th season of the Carolina Ballet of Raleigh, NC might prove to be its most interesting one yet, artistic director Robert Weiss told the audience on opening night of The Ugly Duckling. “We have a mix of new and old,” he reported. Ballets in the 2017-18 season include the gorgeous Weiss-choreographed Messiah; the Valentine’s Day favorite Romeo & Juliet; and the ballet classic, Sleeping Beauty. And it wouldn’t be a Carolina Ballet season without some original new ballets by Weiss and his newly promoted co-artistic director, Zalman Raffael. With a thousand new subscribers this year, the theater will be fuller; but there’s still room for spreading the word, Weiss stated: “Love the ballet? Tell a friend.”
The season is introduced by the childhood fable by Hans Christian Andersen, The Ugly Duckling, with music by Michael Moricz, played by a duo of pianists (Catherine Hamner and Brian Pappal), accompanied by percussionist Vince Moss. The story, narrated by Joseph Gaitens, is one of belonging and identity that children are taught in order to encourage them to accept themselves; but the theme is as effective for adults, for anyone who might not feel that they fit in.
Originally written in 1844 by Anderson as a reflection of his own life, the story of the duckling who was truly a swan has been adapted to opera, musical, and animated film, as well as to ballet in 2009. The Carolina Ballet’s version is choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett.
The duckling is danced by company member Taylor Ayotte, a wisp of a ballerina who appears to have a bright future. Her moves are sharp and clean, employing the appropriate amount of waddle, as well as an elegant, swan-like stretch in her arabesques.
The rest of the dancers are also members of the company, with the exception of a few soloists, such as Miles Sollars-White and Randi Osetek, who lights up the stage when she dances as “The Vision.” Because of the childlike subject matter, often stilted narration, and tinkly music, the production often felt like a recital performance; and in spite of being the title piece for the evening, the other three ballets outshone the duckling by megawatts.
After a short intermission, the effortless dancing of Margaret Severin-Hansen and Sokvannara Sar filled the stage for a few blissful moments to Flower Festival in Genzano, with music by Edvard Helsted and choreography by August Bournonville.
Another pause, and the piece of the evening (in this reviewer’s opinion), one choreographed by Weiss and Raffael, engaged everyone in the audience. Dialogues featured recognizable music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, played with magnificent intensity by the solo pianist William Wolfram.
Dialogues features some of the strongest soloists in the troupe, as well as several of the most powerful pairs. Principals Jan Burkhard and Marcelo Martinez dance with the comfort and ease of a married couple celebrating their 40th anniversary, while Alyssa Pilger and Yevgeny Shlapko connect with both each other and the audience with a smoking intensity. The narrative arc throughout the ballet brings characters together and apart, sometimes with a passion that speaks of relationship connections and breakups. It’s a very moving ballet that might focus on dance but has a distinct underlying theme that highlights the various shades of communication: hence, the title.
Finally, after another intermission, the very long evening of ballet closes with Weiss’s lovely choreography of Les Saltimbanques, with music by Igor Stravinsky, costumes by Kerri Martinsen, and lighting by Ross Kolman. The cubist/abstract design on the costumes mimicked the discordant jazz in the first movement where the entire cast basically introduces themselves.
In the second movement, a pas de trois is danced by soloists Ashley Hathaway, Kiefer Curtis, and Miles Sollars-White. The piece highlights each of their strengths, particularly focusing on Hathaway, who’s a bright, upbeat dancer whose personality reaches far beyond the stage’s edge.
The third movement, a pas de quatre, danced by Carmen Felder, Reigner Bethune, McKenzie Van Oss, and Nicholas Fokine, featured precision spins and arabesques that create interesting images.
The stars of this piece dance the pas de deux in the fourth movement. Alyssa Pilger and Maximilian Isaacson dance beautifully together. Their intensity and incredible command of the balletic language make them the standout couple.
But the dramatic finale of this piece requires each member of the cast to employ every ounce of strength in backlifts that are both climactic and effective. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to emote while you’re upside down and trying to balance.
All in all, the evening’s performance highlighted the brilliant stars already part of the Carolina Ballet’s language, as well as the up-and-coming stars who show great promise and will probably thrill ballet goers in the near future. There’s a reason why the ballet is seeing new subscribers: the talent!
The Ugly Duckling, with Flower Festival in Genzano, Dialogues, and Les Saltimbanques, will be performed until Oct. 1st at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh’s Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
The Carolina Ballet presents THE UGLY DUCKLING at 2 p.m. Sept. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 23, p.m. Sept. 24, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 30, and 2 p.m. Oct. 1 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $32.15-$69.15, except $20 per ticket for college students with ID and free to high school students with ID. Click here for details.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/the-ugly-duckling, http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/the-ugly-duckling-7178, https://www.facebook.com/events/1806985355983326/, and https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/repertoire-entry/P61.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
Zalman Raffael (Carolina Ballet‘s choreographer-in-residence): http://zalmanraffael.com/ (official website) and https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/dancers-entry/zalman-raffael (Carolina Ballet bio).
Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Carolina Ballet principal guest choreographer): http://www.lynnetaylor-corbett.com/ (official website), https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/lynne-taylor-corbett (Carolina Ballet bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/lynne-taylor-corbett-1480 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0853360/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_Taylor-Corbett (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.