by Julie Mullins
Posted In: Dance
at 03:40 PM | Permalink
Contemporary new work's moments of stillness and quiet grab you and draw you in
The intense energy between Principal
dancers Cervilio Amador and Janessa Touchet is so palpable you can
feel it — even when their hands aren’t touching.
Their expressive duet in Heather
Britt’s world premier “Opus 5.5” provided an inviting opening
to Cincinnati Ballet’s annual Kaplan New Works season opener
last Thursday evening.
The production offers a rare chance to
see dance up close, as it takes place in the company’s home
performance studio at the Cincinnati Ballet Center.
There’s nothing like watching live
performance, but there’s something even more exciting and visceral
about seeing the dancers glowing and their muscles flexing.
Full of emotion, Britt’s sweeping
contemporary new work has the dancers really moving all over:
across the stage in sculptural lifts, through the air in expansive
leaps and extravagant extensions. But it’s really the rare moments
of stillness and quiet that grab you and draw you in closer.
New Works’ stock in trade has
always been pushing stylistic boundaries.
R&D,” says Cincinnati Ballet CEO/Artistic Director Victoria
Morgan. “We need to scare ourselves, to try things we’ve never
But this year is noteworthy for another
reason: For the first time, all of the choreographers featured are
Dance-wise, the women also stand out in
the spotlight this year more than usual. Though, as always, there are
plenty of equally fine turns by the men as well.
Paige Cunningham Caldarella’s
“Without Consideration,” the program’s most offbeat piece,
presents a topsy-turvy look at social media and its pleasures and
Its five short sections comprise a
modern dance piece cut with classical ballet. It’s by turns
satirical, ominous and oddly compelling.
Clad in a lime green tee-shirt and a
short, ruffled floral skirt, Corps de Ballet dancer Courtney
Hellebuyck shines in her solo.
She attacks each movement with
ferocious intensity. Her dramatic facial expressions and stage
presence are spellbinding. She and the other four dancers appear
equally comfortable switching between styles — instant, by instant — in
this mash-up of ballet and modern. The women even manage to perform
modern floor drops in pointe shoes.
A physical wall (think social media)
covered in paper provides the backdrop and set piece. The dancers
write on it, hurl themselves against it, and press into it. They
connect and disconnect, or nearly connect with each other. But at
times, they just miss, undulating away from each other. Individual
gestures are repeated, such as one’s own hand suddenly turning the
head and face away in a slo-mo sideways “slap.” It seems to
suggest the struggle to turn one’s attention away from staying
online all day.
Amy Seiwert, San Francisco-based
Resident Choreographer for Smuin Ballet (where she was also a
longtime dancer), has created a thoroughly delightful getaway world
in her world premier modern ballet ,“Think of You Often.”
The weather is balmy. The light-colored
clothing, designed by the Cincinnati Ballet Wardrobe Department, is
carefree and casual. The women collectively become an ocean tide,
even in their pointe shoes. Its feel-good soundtrack, music by the
Swedish group Koop, delivers effusive swing and a touch of Latin
Principal dancer Sarah Hairston warmly
embraces her role, full of flirtation and feline sassiness. First
two, then four men lift and sway her — and no doubt cater to her
But don’t let the piece’s escapist
playfulness belie its underlying choreographic sophistication. The
partnering throughout is highly complex, original, and technically
In a most striking duet, Zach Grubbs
and Jacqueline Damico make the most intricate sequences look as easy
and natural as an ocean breeze.
Jessica Lang’s contemporary
neoclassical work “La Belle Danse” (2007) presents a slightly
quirky court dance of sorts. Set to a score of the likes of Handel
and Mozart, it’s the sole work here that the Ballet has presented
previously, in 2009.
It’s the most classical piece on the
program — relatively speaking — yet unexpectedly it marks the only
one where the women wear soft shoes.
Displaying a very different, more
sacred type of passion in this role’s solo, Hairston demonstrates
her versatility as dancer, and a performer.
The large cast brims over with
expressive dancing, filled with plenty of leaps, turns, waltzing…
and conducting gestures.
Amador and Touchet rapid-fire their way
through pirouettes and petit allegro galore. Although their
style here sharply contrasts their opening duet, this superb pairing
brings this production — one of the best New Works in recent
years — full circle.