New ballets are always exciting, particularly the creations that the team at the Carolina Ballet choreograph each year. The latest, unveiled by artistic director Robert Weiss on Jan. 31st is without a doubt the nicest Valentine’s month surprise the are will probably have this season. A sumptuous, sweet, moving, and romantic tribute to the emotion of love, Love in the Times of the Day is stunningly beautiful — and the perfect Valentine’s date.
The ballet’s 2019 Spring Season is subtitled Shaping a Story, and the story behind the creation of this ballet is a good one. In 2017, Weiss and his wife, Melissa Podcasy, visited a friend in Prague (the composer J. Mark Scearce); and while there, saw the huge quadriptych by the world-famous Czech painter, Alphonse Maria Mucha. The paintings, entitled Times of the Day, stopped Weiss short; and he announced to Melissa and Mark on the spot: “We should do a ballet.”
Weiss has combined art with ballet previously, but this one brings his stellar talents to collaborate with Scearce (who wrote a piece for solo piano), as well as the evening’s pianist William Wolfram. But the inspiration — Mucha’s gorgeous Art Nouveau paintings of four sensual women — is reflected in the choreography, and it’s the perfect showcase for pitch-perfect solos by the ballerinas in the lead roles.
Ashley Hathaway (as Dawn), Alyssa Pilger (as Noon), Lara O’Brien (as Dusk), and Margaret Severin-Hansen (as Night) dance their parts with sensitivity and elegance that speak of Mucha’s love for the female form. Weiss’ choreography is embraced by each of the women and reflected in every arched foot or extended fingertips. Ashley Hathaway’s metaphorical rise from night, accented by what seems to be the ability to raise her body from the floor as though she was a cloud, begins the performance, and truly sets the bar high for the other ballerinas to meet. Alyssa Pilger’s dance is busier than Hathaway’s, but she is no less elegant. Lara O’Brien’s Dusk is warm, like a sunset, and as always, she reminds us why she’s a principal ballerina with her eloquent movements. Rounding up the group, Margaret Severin-Hansen keeps the audience’s eyes, even while her partner ( Marcelo Martinez as the Moon) and the quartet of male dancers (the Stars: Sam Ainley, Christian Gutierrez, Luke Potgieter, and Miles Sollars-White) compete for the audience’s attention by giving one of the best performances of the evening.
Speaking of the male dancers, Sam Ainley partners with Ashley Hathaway in the opening scene, and he sweetly surprised the audience. His partnership is a strong one, lifting her into spiraling turns and high traveling lifts that are high and striking.
Kiefer Curtis (Pilger’s partner) and Yevgeny Shlapko (O’Brien’s partner) created exhilarating performances with partners who are incredibly strong and beautiful dancers, as did Martinez.
The second half of the evening continues the theme of time with The Gallery, again choreographed by Weiss, with music by Paul Moravec. The performance is a perfect partnership with Love in the Times of the Day and seamlessly moves into a scene that measures the day at a medieval Benedictine monastery with nine men and women taking over the stage, and a pas de deux by Lauren Wolfram and Miles Sollars-White, which is deceptively simple looking and lovely.
Other memorable moments include the pas de deux between Amanda Gerhardt and Richard Krusch, as well as Courtney Schenberger and Rammaru Shindo, both partners imitating clock movements; but this reviewer’s personal favorite moment of this half of the performance is Jan Burkhard and Jayson Pescasio’s dances in a segment called Pulse: The Feeling of What Happens. Burkhard always connects well with the audience, and her energy matches the heartbeat rhythm of the pulse. Her solo brings murmurs from the audience, and her partnership with Pescasio is the best of the evening.
All in all, a perfectly lovely way to celebrate the holiday for lovers — but this time, the adoration is for the blended-arts and Robert Weiss’ creativity in bringing music, dance, and art together yet again.
Love in the Times of the Day shows through Feb. 17th at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 30th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/carolina-ballet-love-in-the-times-of-day/; and Jan. 27th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Linda Haac: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article224926940.html.
The Carolina Ballet presents LOVE IN THE TIMES OF THE DAY at 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 2, 2 p.m. Feb. 3, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 9 and 10, and 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 16 and 17 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369155/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/season-tickets/tickets/group-rates/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/2018-2019-season/love-in-the-times-of-day/, https://www.facebook.com/events/278332392715073/, and https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/events/love-times-day-carolina-ballet.
2018-19 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/season-tickets/.
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‘s 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_(choreographer) (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/.