Saturday, November 07, 2009

Culture Cat: BalletMet's "Nightmoves"

Last night was the opening performance of BalletMet's "Nightmoves", a series of six contemporary pieces featuring six different choreographers. BalletMet always sprinkles their season with events like this, that showcase modern dance and a variety of choreographic styles. "Nightmoves" is this year's selection. While one of the pieces had been performed previously by the company (Twyla Tharpe's "Sinatra Suite"), all of the others were either company or world premieres.

The show kicked off with Gerald Charles' "Maestro", set to Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to Orchestra. The whimsical piece explored the relationship the four different orchestral sections have with the Maestro (danced last night by Jimmy Orrante). Four dancers represented the "section leaders" for the woodwinds (Emily Ramirez), strings (Carrie West), Brass (Jackson Sarver), and percussion (Dustin James). Three addition dancers, in slightly different costumes than that of the section leader, fleshed out each instrumental family.

BalletMet dancers David Tlaiye and Jessica Brown in "Maestro"

This costumes for this piece, designed by Frank Quadflieg, exactly matched the piece's whimsical tone and used unique elements such as hats, orange tights for the men in the brass section, and black pointe shoes for the women of the string section.

Tharp's "Sinatra Suite", danced by Adrienne Benz and Jon Drake, was next. I love this piece and was glad to see it again, although the male solo at the end was cut from this production. Benz, especially, did a lovely job in this piece. You can tell she greatly enjoys dancing it.

The Act I finale was a real highlight--Laurie Eisenhower's "Night Music", set to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. All six dancers were asleep! I think I saw eyes open once (and I was in the front row), which made their contortions, movements and facial expressions even more amazing. Using a couch as a prop, the dancers slid over it, around it, and jammed onto it, all "asleep" as the piece progressed. It's laugh-out-loud funny, and it alone is worth the ticket price.

After a twenty-minute intermission, the second half kicked off with a world premier--"Relevant", by Maria Glimcher. In a video clip before the dance, Glimcher explained that the piece is about time--how we are affected by it, and how we experience it. The piece is set for four female dancers and features two long strips of fabric that initially divide the stage into four quadrants, like a clock.

I liked this piece, especially the second part, which was a bit softer. The dancers did a wonderful job with the choreography, and the use of the fabric was innovative and appropriate. I did find Glimcher's choreography to be a bit out of sync with the music, especially in the second half, when the accompaniment was a gentle piano melody. The harsh movements of the dancers seemed dissonant to me.

"In g major", a pas de deux by choreography Michael Uthoff, was next. Danced by Zoica Tovar and Andres Estevez (whom we saw last as Odile and Prince Siegfried, respectively, in Swan Lake), this was an achingly beautiful expression of love. Uthoff had choreographed this as a wedding gift for two Ballet Arizona dancers who were getting married, and it perfectly captures that sentiment. Tovar and Estevez express all the expressions of new love--wonder, joy, tenderness--in this piece. It ends with a small kiss.

Finally on the program was company dancer Adam Hundt's "dwell," which used video as well as music. Set for six dancers (three pairs of men and women) performed the evening's most modern piece. The dancing was demanding--the women often had to do lighting-fast changes from technique shoes to pointe shoes--and extremely innovative, as were the costumes (shredded black leotards, tights, and tank tops). I think the first half of the program (before the video) was better than the first, and I wasn't quite sure about the use of props (rope, and long tulle skirts for the women). But the dancers' athleticism and vigor made this an exciting piece to watch.

"Nightmoves" is an exciting peek into the future of dance, and a fine bridge between two Classical staples--Swan Lake and The Nutcracker (which opens December 11). Do yourself a favor and see it.

"Nightmoves" will run through November 20 at the BalletMet Performance Space. Tickets can be purchased here

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