Carolina Ballet ended its 14th season with two original ballets by artistic director Dr. Robert Weiss. Beauty and the Beast was the opener, and went on a little too long. But it proved to be worth the wait for Weiss’s world premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Beauty, danced by Margaret Severin-Hansen, was the youngest and the kindest of her siblings. As her father set out for a long journey she asked only for a single rose. In getting the rose, the old man, danced by Marin Boieru, brought the wrath of the cursed Beast, danced by Alain Molina. Beast allowed him to return to his family for a short time. When Beauty learned what her father suffered to bring her a rose, she decided to return to the Beast’s castle in her his place.
The familiar story was presented in a simple and contrived way. The scenes didn’t flow into one another. The live narration by Weiss’s musical collaborator Karl Moraski was delivered eloquently while he played piano accompaniment. However, the lyrics for the voices of Beauty and Beast were unsophisticated and unnecessary.
Beauty and the Beast wasn’t without its dancing highlights. The six dancers of the Dark Shadows who darkened the father’s journey were eerily enchanting. Three Fairies, (Randi Osetek, Ashley Hathaway, and Cecilia Iliesiu) who hovered around Beauty or her father now and then (they seemed to be dancing on-lookers rather than to have any real part in the movement of the story), danced interesting solos highlighting strengths such as Osetek’s long extensions. Exotic Birds Lindsay Purington and Eugene Barnes stood out with their fluid movements choreographed by Attila Bongar.
Carla Risch-Chaffin designed the fantastically-fairytale-like set. Inside Beast’s castle was a glittery golden pane around a window as tall as the stage exposing the dark starlit sky on the other side.
The joyous dancing to Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 in the second half matched the intensity of the grand music. Each of the 4 movements was a ballet in itself, with all the dancers combining in the last one.
Marcelo Martinez, Cecelia Iliesiu and Lara O’Brien danced the principal roles in the 1st movement. They leaped and turned evasively through and encircled by a corps of 12 dancers. Margaret Severin-Hansen seemed to play the vibrant symphonic strings with her turns across the stage in the 2nd movement. Timour Bourtasenkov and Lylian Vigo were picturesque in the meditative 3rd movement.
The 4th movement, with the well-known Ode to Joy, was nothing short of sweeping. Melissa Podcassy and Gabor Kapin were featured and were joined by the entire company on stage. The company members danced in unison, cleanly and gracefully, and were accented by the principal dancers from all four parts running, leaping, turning — breezing past. The sustained energy throughout the 23-minute 4th movement was an exhilarating end to the show.
Any good work of art will give the observer some new insight. In dance there are so many possibilities for large and small insights. Through Weiss’s choreography more subtle aspects of the music are drawn to the front, so that a familiar piece of music is refreshed and new. Robert Weiss, possessed by the inspiration of a great composer, has created an epic ballet.