Three pieces by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), the famous French composer whose best-known composition is Boléro (1928), anchor the latest offering from the Carolina Ballet on March 8-25 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh, NC’s Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The evening celebrates another artist, as well: the French painter and sculptor Edgar Degas, whose work is honored in the third ballet. But the highlight of the evening is that the three ballets are choregraphed by the three talented choreographers whose work regularly surprises and delights local ballet aficionados.
Before Thursday night’s performance began, Carolina Ballet’s co-artistic director Zalman Raffael took the stage to introduce the evening’s ballets, mentioning that the inspiration for his work, The Other Ravel, was New York City and its people, whereas Carolina Ballet’s co-artistic director Robert Weiss’ inspiration for Des Images was the fabulous Degas (who also inspired Jeff A.R. Jones, who designed the costumes). But the premiere ballet of the evening, choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, is also the title ballet: Boléro: A Day at the Beach.
The first ballet, The Other Ravel, is danced to Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major by principals Jan Burkhard and Marcelo Martinez, soloists Rammaru Shindo and Miles Sollars-White, and company member Maxmilian Isaacson. It feels as new as it is, modern and fresh, fast, complicated, and has moments reminiscent of American composer George Gershwin An American in Paris.
The five ballet dancers in the piece exude a 1950s persona; and it’s easy to see them as New Yorkers, as Raffael stated earlier in the evening. The choreography is interesting, both lighthearted and exacting, with scissor-sharp foot work, instead of a preponderance of leaps and turns.
The setting is as simple as the footwork is complicated. Only lighting enhances the stage, which means the audience’s attention is focused on the dancers rather than the setting. It’s never difficult to watch Jan Burkhard or Marcelo Martinez, but the trio of men dance their pas de trois adds an additional dimension to the piece.
This is a piece that feels as though all of the arts that conspire to create the work are equally powerful and interwoven: the music feels like a sharply designed architecture of deep blues and greens that acts as the backdrop for dancers who appear to be part of the watercolor of the dance as a whole. One can see the creativity on many levels, which only serves to showcase the dancers more than usual.
The second ballet of the evening, the title work Bolero: A Day at the Beach, is a complete surprise, a delight that starts from the moment The Couple, Lara O’Brien and Yevgeny Shlapko, stroll onto the stage. Dressed in bathing suits and carrying chairs for the titled day at the beach, the Couple are the metaphor for expectations that are blown awry. They seat themselves on a sunny beach that becomes so hot (warmed by the Sun, played by Randi Osetek) that it forces them to cool themselves off in the Sea (played by Jacqueline Schiller); but things take a drastic turn as an afternoon storm pops up and the Wind ( played by Amanda Gerhardt and Rammaru Shindo) threatens to tear the whole scene apart.
Lara O’Brien and Yevgeny Shlapko play to the audience; their acting is so over-the-top and vaudevillian that the audience guffaws throughout most of the dance. It’s a hilarious performance, aptly supported by the other characters/dancers. No words are necessary to fully understand the story behind the choreography, though it’s strange watch a nearly burlesque interpretation of Ravel’s iconic music. But it works and is the one dance people still talked about the following day.
The final dance, Des Images, choreographed by Robert Weiss, is broken into four movements that appear to be hosted by the Choreographer (played by Yevgeny Shlapko). The work is a little jewel box of a piece that feels like a gift within a gift within a gift. The audience is allowed in on the secrets behind the creative underpinnings of a work: the first movement is entitled “The Inspiration,” whereas the second is “A Rehearsal,” the third is “Making the Pas de Deux,” and the final movement is entitled “The Performance.”
Weiss pulls out all the stops and employs some of the best dancers in the Carolina Ballet. Ashley Hathaway majestically leads the other ballerinas through “The Inspiration”; Alyssa Pilger, Alicia Fabry, and Courtney Schenberger follow The Choreographer’s direction in “A Rehearsal,” with their pastel costumes speaking to the classical ballets everyone is familiar with. Margaret Severin-Hansen and Richard Krusch are the perfect pair to depict the making of the pas de deux, their comfort with each other making them one of the strongest duos in the corps; and the entire cast comes together for the performance.
The evening is a success, as evidenced by the roaring, standing ovation that the dancers and choreographers received when the performance ended. No doubt, Ravel would be proud.
The Carolina Ballet presents Ravel’s BOLÉRO: A DAY AT THE BEACH at 2 and 8 p.m. March 10, 2 p.m. March 11, 2 and 8 p.m. March 17, 2 p.m. March 18, 2 and 8 p.m. March 24, and 2 p.m. March 25 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.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
2017-18 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/2017-2018-season.
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet‘s co-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 co-artistic director and 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/.