The Carolina Ballet often surprises in its dedication to bring both classical and innovative ballets to the stage. This season is no different, with new artistic director Zalman Raffael continuing that precedent with the perfect pairing of Robert Weiss’ interpretation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Raffel’s reimagining of Frankenstein.
The “appetizer” of the evening (Weiss’ description), based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s classic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” is a beautiful short piece danced elegantly by some of the ballet’s principals. The story of a Mariner (played by Richard Krusch) who is haunted by the guilt of killing an albatross, a sea bird considered to be good luck by the sailors themselves.
The haunting story showcases the dancing of Krusch and his real-life wife, Margaret Severin-Hansen, who dances the Albatross as well as she has previously danced the Firebird. She appears truly light-as-a-feather when in lifts or pirouetting from one side of the stage to the other.
Richard Krusch embodies the ability to deliver the emotional roller-coaster of his role: from the hubris-filled young Mariner who chooses to kill the lucky seabird, to portraying the anguished man forced to watch his sailors die one by one and, finally, to his portrayal of the ancient mariner still suffering from the curse that has forced him to retell the story to everyone he meets.
The surprise in this ballet is the light and lovely Amanda Gerhardt, who dances with Christian Gutierrez as the bride and groom whose wedding is interrupted by the Mariner, who wants to tell one of the wedding guests the story that he’s cursed to retell again and again. Gerhardt completely embodies the character, offering us a joyous bride who’s both beautiful and animated. Her dance appears natural and unrehearsed, as if we had accidentally joined in her wedding celebration. We predict more stage time for this soloist from Florida, as well as for her able and attentive partner, Guiterrez.
What’s not a surprise is that principal Lara O’Brien as Life in Death could rival the nastiness of Maleficent. She dances with Kiefer Curtis (Death) in a sinister manner that upstages whoever else is on stage at the same moment. Her ability to stretch her body, to wrap herself sinuously around Curtis, and to execute complicated turns, all while staying completely in character, makes her one of the stars of this company.
After a short intermission, the main course of the evening begins. Frankenstein’s story is one everyone knows, but few realize that author Mary Shelley had actually hidden behind a sofa in her father’s living room and listened to Coleridge recite “Mariner.” His work inspired her and the intersections between the two works are too many to recount in this review.
For the purposes of this Halloween-themed evening, both of the ballets are at least partially set in the middle of a vast ocean. Set designer Jeff A.R. Jones created a set that could easily be adapted by both ballets. At one point, the set grows into the sky with a dramatic moment that drew gasps from the audience (we won’t reveal the spoiler).
Choreographed by Zalman Raffel, the retelling of the Frankenstein myth is the perfect opportunity to employ the brilliant talents of Marcelo Martinez as the Monster. Though he seems to be typecast as the bad guy in these Halloween ballets (he’s been Dracula during previous years), he’s the perfect dancer when the role calls for slinking across the stage, attacking other characters, and acting as the horribly disfigured man-monster.
Yevgeny Shlapko plays Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the man who tried to play God by rebuilding a man from dead parts. His tortured view of science is balanced by his love for Elizabeth, portrayed beautifully by the talented Jan Burkhard. Their partnership is highlighted by long, dramatic lifts and partnered dancing indicative of two true professionals.
Throughout the story, the characters are plagued by their views of good and evil (portrayed by Ashley Hathaway and Alyssa Pilger); and sometimes evil wins.
Though there are moments when the dances are confusing and appear uncoordinated, the theme of the story is preserved and the horror is so clearly depicted that one wonders whether the parents of small children should be warned.
The Carolina Ballet covers holidays like no other entertainment offering in the Triangle. Get your spook on at their Halloween performances from now through Sunday, Oct. 27th.
The Carolina Ballet presents FRANKENSTEIN, a world premiere by Zalman Raffael, at 8 p.m. Oct. 11, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 12, 2 p.m. Oct. 13, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 19, 2 p.m. Oct. 20, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 26, and 2 p.m. Oct. 27 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/tickets/special-rates/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/2019-2020-season/frankenstein/, https://www.facebook.com/events/2364254657126690/, and https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/events/frankenstein-carolina-ballet.
2019-20 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/season/.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Zalman Raffael (Carolina Ballet‘s artistic director): http://zalmanraffael.com/ (official website) and https://www.carolinaballet.com/zalman-raffael/ (Carolina Ballet bio).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet‘s founding artistic director): https://www.carolinaballet.com/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/.