“I know I can… be what I want to be.” The truth of these words from I can by Nas is evident for Carolina Ballet dancers. They are presenting three new and innovative ballets in this season’s fifth program. They can be urban street, pure and classical, and accessories to unadulterated acts of nature.
A Street Symphony, choreographed by Zalman Raffael, is set to music ranging from Beethoven to Busta Rymes, including the above-mentioned song, I can. Lovely ballerinas are transformed into gangsters in tutus, but some pull off badass (ready to behave in an unpleasant way if necessary, Macmillan Dictionary) more naturally than others. The seven short dances consist of classical ballet steps with an edge interspersed with dance club moves.
The slow monotonous beat of the hip-hop music becomes tiresome after a while, but it becomes fresh again with the frequent song and dance change. The rhythm of the dance often matches precisely with the simple rhythm of the words; for every syllable you hear, there is a corresponding dance step. As opposed to the more complex musical and dance patterns in traditional ballet dances, the song and dance might repeat in your head like a catchy radio tune for hours after you’ve left the theater.
The program takes us from the street-wise to the pure in Artistic Director Robert Weiss’s new ballet Idyll. Three couples dance through interconnections representing friendship. Set to music of Richard Wagner, Weiss uses his characteristic body contact and interaction, partnering in novel ways, subtly intertwining, and constantly evolving into new shapes.
The fluid dipping and folding of the bodies, and the sweeping of the arms and legs creates a movement that feels as rare and unlikely to be repeated as a leaf blown by the wind. Seeing the same seemingly random pattern of movement repeated simultaneously across the stage gives the effect of a lucid echo or a hall of mirrors.
Spring is often thought of as a time of transformation. In Christopher Stowell’s re-imagining of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring the stage is transformed into a new and unrecognizable space. There are no curtains, so the black walls and supports of the far sides and back of the stage are exposed, creating vastness. That combined with the stark lighting makes the dancers appear both vulnerable and aggressive.
Twenty-six dancers move both within the box formed by three suspended panels, and outside of it in the dark, all the way to the walls, the part of the stage the audience rarely sees. They move into and out of the space, circle slowly in the dark, create an eery pyramid of moving bodies, until the sacrificial one, Lara O’Brien, is left alone with walls having closed in around her.
Stowell’s work is conceptually and visually shocking. The raw product of nature’s violently creative work is presented through unusual and unexpectedly modern shapes and movements. The contention between opposing groups, and the sense of impending doom is made especially compelling by the dancers’ expressionless faces. They are like another kind of life form, neutral to the havoc they wreak.
Stravinsky’s music is provided live by pianists Ted Hardin and Anatoly Larkin. The two-piano arrangement is as discordant as you would expect from a fully orchestrated version.
This program is sure to appeal to a young audience, and fans of pop-culture and modern dance. For loyal patrons of the ballet it will provide an exciting new look at what ballet can be.
Review and photos by Denise Cerniglia
For ticket information visit: http://www.carolinaballet.com/program/the-rite-of-spring
To see more pictures visit: http://artsviewnc.wordpress.com/