- Lilyan Vigo, Gabor Kapin and Company in Carolina Ballet‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Choreography by George Balanchine (c) The George Balanchine Trust; Photo by Russ Howe
Carolina Ballet is closing its 13th season this weekend with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an original story ballet by great choreographer George Balanchine. Included in the program are several other original works, which combine to show a company with versatile dance styles and a growing number of strong and charismatic dancers to feature.
The show opens with Memory, a pas de deux by Attila Bongar danced by Lara O’Brien and Attila Bongar. This romantic piece, with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, is danced as if in a single motion from the beginning to the end. The dancers change shape as each step flows gracefully from the previous one. The choreography features O’Brien’s pleasing lines extending from fingertips to toes.
Brahms Pas de Deux by Robert Weiss follows, danced by Melissa Podcassy and Timour Bourtasenkov. The expression and strong presence of Bourtasenkov is captivating and the choreography moves the dancers in perfect synchronicity with the music (Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto in D, “Adagio”). The simplicity of two dancers and a piece of music is alluring, but Friday night’s performance of the pas was lacking energy and had a few moments where it seemed the dancers weren’t quite on.
The first half ends with Atilla Bongar’s An Invisible Story, a contemporary ballet about an individual’s struggle against the oppression of the masses set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich. Four male solists are featured, each representing individuals with different degrees of control over themselves and society. The movements of the ensemble, representing society, are clean and uniform. The choreography is an intriguing combination of basic and technically challenging. The soloists seem detached from the ensemble, effectively showing the relationship of control between them. The lighting by Ross Kolman is truly remarkable. With the backdrop of a gray brick building lined realistically with pipes, the lighting takes you to an outside alley, to a gray world were conformity might be more than an expectation. Richard Krusch’s performance as “The man who is what he should be” demands attention. This is an interesting and thought provoking piece, deserving of a second look.
The second half is the night’s feature ballet: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This ballet is a visual treat, set deep in an enchanted forest, surrounded by trees and green draping vines, where a delicate fairy sitting on her flower petal throne entertains fireflies and butterflies. This is a fun and fast paced fantasy that keeps the dancers constantly performing at the height of skill. Lara O’Brien as Titiana, the Fairy Queen, regularly reaches leg extensions of 180 degrees with grace and ease. Eugene Barnes balances grace and athleticism for an outstanding (and comical!) performance as the mischievous Puck. Randi Osetek gives a powerful performance as Helena, whipping turn after turn. Besides the Carolina Ballet dancers, there is a cast of about 30 talented children as fireflies and butterflies. Led by beautiful Butterfly Jan Burkhard, the children fill the stage with well-rehearsed complex choreography. The children are major contributors to the charm of this ballet.
From contemporary work about a struggle against oppression to fanciful tales of fairies and romance, this weekend’s performance displays the diversity of a company that has consistently outdone itself with each opening for 13 years.
If you haven’t experienced a Carolina Ballet production, this one is the perfect first. You can still catch A Midsummer Night’s Dream Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm.