In this pandemic era, where the best we can hope for are performances in Brady family-like shadow boxes, it is exciting to find arts companies going beyond the norm to bring about entertainment while still following the Covid protocols.
Compelling entertainment was certainly the result when Verb Ballets and BlueWater Chamber Orchestra joined forces to create Building Bridges Together, a collaboration designed, performed, and filmed specifically for virtual performance on November 21, 2020.
Verb Ballets, which was founded in 1987, is one of Northeast Ohio’s most respected dance companies. Verb Ballets has gained a reputation for artistic excellence and exemplary community engagement since 1987. “Under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Carlson, former principal dancer for Cleveland Ballet, and Richard Dickinson, MFA, former Ohio Ballet dancer, the company is committed to the creation and mounting of dance works of the highest caliber. The company strives to act as a catalyst to promote learning, nurture wellness, and encourage dialogue about the dance art form. As a contemporary ballet company, the dancers combine classical ballet training with strong artistry.”
Under the Artistic Directorship of native Clevelander, Daniel Meyer, the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra “is a cooperative, professional chamber orchestra serving the NE Ohio region. Performance of great music, outreach program and educational endeavors are equal in their mission statement. The musical ensemble is committed to expanding the boundaries of what a chamber orchestra can be.”
The forty-five-minute program, presented without intermission, opened with Heinz Poll’s Adagio for Two Dancers set to Albinoni’s “Adagio.”
The lush, slow, sensual neo-Baroque composition, is a gentle and ethereal work. It was well interpreted by the orchestra.
The ballet was originally choreographed in 1973 for Ohio Ballet and remounted with permission of Jane Startzman.
Kelly Korfhage and Benjamin Shepard, both in masks, danced in traditional balletic form. Her toe-work and his strong partnering and flowing leaps, seamlessly flowed together. The number was beautifully lit, accenting the duos shimmering costumes.
Anton Webern's “Langsamer Satz” is presumed to be a “musical love-letter, born of a relationship between the composer and Wilhelmine Mörtl.” It is a romantic composition, with rich harmonies. It well deserves its reputation as a fine example of how elegantly and unabashedly music can emerge from a compact format.
The lush piece was beautifully performed by the all-string orchestra under the baton of Daniel Meyer.
The program concluded with Broken Bridges, choreographed by former company dancer and choreographer, Michael Escovedo. It was set to the haunting sounds of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C minor Op. 110A.
According to program notes, “Escovedo choreographed this piece as a tribute to his grandmother, Bridgett Escovedo, who passed away in 2017. In the ballet, he honors his late grandmother who suffered from mental illness, which left the relationships in the family strained, especially the relationship between Escovedo and his mother after he became her caregiver when she developed Alzheimer's disease later in life. Broken Bridges explores this family dynamic.
The introspective, emotionally-draining modern ballet piece, featured the masterful dancing and story-telling of Kate Webb and Lieneke Matte and showcased Robert Carter, Daniel Cho, Kelly Korfhage, Antonio Morillo, Noe Iwamatsu and Julie Russel, all masked.
The emotions of the story were well told though impressive stage pictures, dramatic acting, powerful hand and body movements and impressive dance skills.
Capsule judgment: Kudos to Verb Ballet and Blue Water Chamber Orchestra for creating a unique and fulfilling cinematic experience that was, indeed, “an evening of connecting to the heart; a perfect respite for those emotionally challenging times.”