26 May 2009

Ballet Chicago Studio Company, 17 May 2009, Captivating Rhythms

Captivating Rhythms
Presented by the Ballet Chicago Studio Company

Sunday 17 Mary 2009, 3 PM matinée
Athenaeum Theater, Chicago
Somewhere in Orchestra Row N

I unfortunately missed the first act presentation of Bach 1041 and Coppelia. However, two-thirds of a performance is still better than none at all, especially when preceded by a traffic jam that lasted for nearly an hour. And so, having established this fact, I'll move onto the second and in strict numerical order, the third.

The excerpt from Ellington Suite (choreography Duell) was unfortunately too short for me to form much of an opinion. The choreography was suitably jazzy for the 'giggling rapids' - Ellington's counterpoint to babbling brooks? - and it showed off the male trio to good effect. The piece began a bit sluggishly, but the dancers seemed to wake up little by little, possibly in preparation for Rubies.  

Alice Gleaning (choreography Ted Seymour) is a world premiere featuring Ballet Chicago student Maeva Esteban. The piece begins with a corp of women dancing in unison to Mozart while a girl (Olivia Schmit) fiddles with her shoe on the floor. The choreography corresponds simply to the melodic line as background dissonance builds, until Maeva is drawn out into another space, in which she, joined later by the corp, is free to play with motifs, repetitions, and variations in a more modern milieu first to the words and music of Ravi Shankar, then to music by Nikolas Lund (and Steve Reich at some point – please feel free to correct me).

This piece showcased Maeva's energy and attack, and she shifted between ballet and modern technique effortlessly. Jack tells me that Maeva had very beautiful ballon in her jumps as well (in Coppelia), and we agreed that she would do equally well in a ballet or a modern company.

The marriage of modern and ballet is always fraught with interpretation – one which I couldn't resist, apparently. Maeva is drawn out of the melodic simplicity of ballet to take off her shoes, to join in this new free performing medium that can have layers and repetitions. Is it a rejection of the simplicity of classical ballet? Is it an opinion on the limitations of ballet? Is it a commentary on modern dance being the rejection of ballet? I'll stop now before it turns into the Spam sketch. Beans are off. 

My primary purpose for this trip was Rubies, which I had never seen live. These performances were set by Sandra Jennings, and several male dancers who have performed elsewhere told me that it was perhaps the most balletic Rubies that they have done.  

Seeing it live puts back the sheer velocity and depth that had been missing from video. While watching, I was often reminded of the mental image I had when listening to Capriccio for the first time, that of cartoon heroes on a merry chase, opening and closing doors while everyone's paths crossed and uncrossed until they were tied into a large ball, arms and legs sticking out randomly.

I commented to Jack that these performances still had the 'new car smell' – it was clear to see that the company loved to dance it and they attacked it with immense energy. You could almost hear the skidmarks as the company and the choreography chased after each other. Marvelous. 

Olivia Schmit was a cool tall girl, staring the audience down in with a measured glare. She reminded me of a huntress, brushing off captivity by her cavaliers because they were incapable of keeping her. I wanted more animation – at times the stare looked blank and it looked very odd against her dancing.

Margaret Severin-Hansen and Gabor Kapin were the guest couple. Severin-Hansen is rather short – and at first I thought their proportions were a bit mismatched – but she danced big, showing off the lines and levels of the pas de deux with panache. Kapin was a sandy haired king of the pack, but I thought his solo needed more attack – he looked more self-satisfied than charming or delighted at his bag of tricks. As he swung her around in a series of several lifts, the tight velocity reminded me of partnered lifts from the lindy hop – she seemed to love it, winding him more tightly with every move. 

At the end of the pas de deux, tho' he had swung her around and danced and flirted, it was clear that Severin-Hansen had the upper hand – he was mesmerized by the illusion she had dropped in his palm. Odile won this round.

After the performance, I grinned foolishly at Jack for a full five minutes and had to restrain myself from asking for several encores. A good first viewing, I'd say. 

21 May 2009

vehemence, paraphrased

(at a lebanese restaurant in Chicago)

jack: Kay Mazzo in Diamonds just didn't look the same. That used to drive Mr Balanchine crazy.

me: He was trying to recreate Farrell. No one can recreate Farrell in Diamonds because no one is Farrell. He's trying to recapture something that isn't possible, tapping on an overbred body line to invoke something that is innate!

I happen to like Mazzo in Duo Concertante a lot, but comparing her to Farrell is like asking someone to race a Mazda MX-5 against a Duesenberg. Like her or not - and I'd venture to say that I grapple often between liking her and throwing things at her - there's nobody who dances quite like Suzanne Farrell.