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The Planets Are in Perfect Alignment on
Nov. 21-25 at the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh

The Carolina Ballet will perform Gustav Holst's <em>The Planets</em>, choreographed by Robert Weiss and Zalman Raffael, and featuring mobiles by Guy Solie, on Nov. 21 and 23-25 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

The Carolina Ballet will perform Gustav Holst’s The Planets, choreographed by Robert Weiss and Zalman Raffael, and featuring mobiles by Guy Solie, on Nov. 21 and 23-25 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

Robert Weiss and the Carolina Ballet rarely fail to provide a night of beautiful dance, and interesting couplings and their current performance of The Planets extended that winning streak. There’s been a subtle shift in positions in the ballet itself, with departures and arrivals; some new dancers share the spotlight with principal dancers in different partnerships; and that shift is mirrored in the recognizable score of Gustav Holst’s celebration of our solar system and of our own role within it.

The evening’s performance opens with a Balanchine classic: Apollo. Danced to music by Igor Stravinsky, the ballet opened in the United States in 1937 and is one that OTHER LINKS: Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer Robert Weiss states he’s honored to perform.

The set is simple, decorated only with large metal sculptures by Durham metal artist Guy Solie. They float above the dancers’ heads like disconnected mobiles, catching and refracting light and casting interesting shadows on the dancers’ bodies. Just watching the set changes between dances is entertaining.

Richard Krusch dances the role of Apollo, the god of the arts who is seduced by the three Muses (Ashley Hathaway as Terpsichore, Amanda Gerhardt as Polyhymnia, and Lily Wills as Calliope). Each of the ballerinas couples with Krusch for her own personal pas de deux, but the mesmerizing and fairly architectural moments of the dance come when the muses and Apollo dance together. Their lines are fine-tuned, their understanding of their roles is evident, and the dancing itself was superb. Balanchine would be proud.

In the first movement of The Planets, Zalman Raffael’s choreography features a military-precision, powerful, and well-synchronized group of male dancers, celebrating Mars, the Bringer of War. It’s not often that the stage is full of male dancers, and the piece showcased the talented male dancers in the troupe.

Lara O’Brien is radiant in Venus, the Bringer of Peace. Though the dance is one of the shortest of the evening, O’Brien’s ability to slow her movements so that she seems to pause mid-air makes her one of the most stunning of the principals. Of the ballerinas, she shone above the rest.

As Mercury, the Winged Messenger, Sokvannara Sar, displays great energy and is a good choice for the role. His lifts are effortless, even though he must work with all three of his female counterparts.

The best partnership of the evening goes to Marcelo Martinez and Alyssa Pilger, who have chemistry on stage; and it seems that they’re challenged by working together, each bringing out the best in the other. Martinez is one of the best partners in the ballet; but Pilger is as strong as he is, often seeming to lift herself into the more difficult transitions with ease. Their partnering and body placement skills are impressive.

Guy Solie’s artwork is another character in the ballet, created for Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age. There’s a sense of movement in this dance, even when they are still, which might be the result of the copper tones in the mobile above the dancers. Kiefer Curtis, Amanda Gerhardt, and Courtney Schenberger are the focus of the dance, though they are surrounded by 12 other members of the troupe throughout the performance.

One of the other interesting pairings of the night was principal Jan Burkhard and Jayson Pescasio, a member of the company, in Uranus, the Magician. Size-wise, this partnership makes sense; but Pescasio isn’t as well-seasoned as Burkhard. Still, the dance was interesting.

The evening closed out with Neptune, the Mystic, with principals Margaret Severin-Hansen and Yevgeny Shlapko partnered. Twelve members of the troupe join them for a journey into the future that is structured by color as much as it is by the choreography.

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 21st Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods:”.

The Carolina Ballet presents Gustav Holst’s THE PLANETS at 8 p.m. Nov. 23, 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 24, and 2 8 p.m. Nov. 25 in the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $34.15-$78.15.


Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or

SHOW:,,, and

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Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet‘s artistic director and choreographer): (Carolina Ballet bio) and (Wikipedia).

Zalman Raffael (Carolina Ballet‘s co-artistic director and Carolina Ballet‘s choreographer-in-residence): (official website) and (Carolina Ballet bio).


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

Categorised in: A&E Dance Reviews, Dance, Lead Story