During a season that celebrates some of the best choreography of Carolina Ballet’s beloved founder and artistic director Robert Weiss, who is relinquishing his control over the ballet troupe that he has built into one of the best ballet companies in the nation, An Evening of Bernstein & Robbins is a celebration of two of Weiss’ inspirations: Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins.
Robbins choreography career is one of the most recognizable of American choreographers. With Academy Awards® for the film version of West Side Story, award-winning Broadway shows (such as The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, and Peter Pan) and more than 60 ballets to his credit, Jerome Robbins’ space within the dance world is hallowed.
Leonard Bernstein, the music director of the New York Philharmonic and conductor for many Broadway shows, as well as television shows and movies. He worked with Jerome Robbins and created the music for some of their most iconic shows (such as West Side Story), earning Emmy, Grammy, Tony®, and Lifetime Achievement awards.
The shows these two brilliant musical/dance icons created are still performed regularly on stages throughout the world, so when the Carolina Ballet created a season of the story, who better to include than two of the best-known American dance storytellers?
If this reviewer were to critique one aspect of the evening’s lovely dances, it’s that the three intermissions literally break the spell that the Bernstein and Robbins partnership fashions from light and air. That said, the evening’s performances were pleasant and a true acknowledgement of the men’s talent.
“The Metaphorical Heart” (music by Bernstein and choreography by Carolina Ballet’s co-artistic director Zalman Raffael) shines the spotlight on Jan Burkhard, Sokvannara Sar, Margaret Severin-Hansen, and Richard Krusch. Danced in black leotards, the piece almost appears to be practice, except for some interesting lifts and intricate partner-work.
The music of Claude Debussy highlights Jerome Robbins’ choreography in Afternoon of a Faun, which is a fantasy moment, danced by the well-paired partnership of Ashley Hathaway and Marcelo Martinez. The way in which both dancers stare into the distance brings new meaning to “deer in the headlights.” As always, Martinez thrills when he’s onstage; and Hathaway has proven to be a talented ballerina who has no problem keeping up with his athletic prowess.
The trio of dancers who joyfully bring “A Graceful, Lighthearted Sonata” to life are choreographed by Zalman Raffael to the music of Leonard Bernstein. Amanda Gerhardt, Alyssa Pilger, and Christian Gutierrez flit across the stage as though they’re butterflies; but Pilger is the one who catches the audience’s eye. Her movements are effortless, her footwork clean and precise, and her hands, both elegant and explicit.
The most recognizable dance of the night is “Fancy Free,” a ballet Robbins created when he was only 25 years old. It’s 1944, World War II is in full bloom, and the setting is New York City where three sailors (Kiefer Curtis, Maxmilian Isaacson, and Yevgeny Shlapko) are on leave. Naturally, their attention is on the women who pass them by (Lara O’Brien and Courtney Schenberger) and like the sailors (Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin) in the classic movie On the Town, the men compete for the women’s attention. The result is a fun, exhilarating, high-energy performance where the men steal the show.
The evening is one celebrating iconic performances, danced with the energy only the Carolina Ballet can offer. An Evening of Bernstein & Robbins will be at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh, NC through Sunday, March 24th.
SECOND OPINION: March 6th Raleigh, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/carolina-ballet-an-evening-of-bernstein-and-robbins/.
The Carolina Ballet presents AN EVENING OF BERNSTEIN & ROBBINS at 8 p.m. March 8, 2 and 8 p.m. March 9, 2 p.m. March 10, 2 and 8 p.m. March 16, 2 p.m. March 17, 2 and 8 p.m. March 23, and 2 p.m. March 24 in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
BOX OFFICE: 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/season-tickets/tickets/group-rates/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/an-evening-of-bernstein-robbins, https://www.facebook.com/events/274682889767686/, and https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/events/evening-bernstein-and-robbins-carolina-ballet.
2018-19 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/season-tickets/.
Leonard Bernstein (Lawrence, MA-born composer and lyricist, 1918-90): https://leonardbernstein.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/7511 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/leonard-bernstein-7257 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0077086/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Bernstein (Wikipedia).
Jerome Robbins (New York, NY-born director and choreographer, 1918-98): http://jeromerobbins.org/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/7509 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jerome-robbins-11149 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0730385/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Robbins (Wikipedia).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet‘s artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_(choreographer) (Wikipedia).
Zalman Raffael (Carolina Ballet‘s co-artistic director and Carolina Ballet‘s choreographer-in-residence): http://zalmanraffael.com/ (official website) and https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/dancers-entry/zalman-raffael (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 http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.