Sunday, February 09, 2003

The Magic of Dance: Winter Program (Ohio Ballet)

Ohio Ballet celebrates the magic of dance

One of the cues to how effective a performance has been is to listen to the audience “buzz” as they exit after the final curtain. If the topics center on what’s just been experienced it usually means that the audience has had a moving encountered. That movement may have been either positive or negative, but, they have been effected. Unfortunately, the “buzz” after many of the Ohio Ballet performances has been missing.

Does this mean the performances have been bad? No. They just don’t distinguish themselves, excite the audience. They don’t bring prolonged applause, let alone a standing ovation. The company is acceptable if not outstanding. On the male side, there is no Raymond Rodriguez, no David Shimotakahara, though there is Brian Murphy, who comes close and youthful Eric Carvill seems to be coming into his own. The women are stronger, but still no Karen Gabey or Cynthia Graham. Jesica Salomon is developing into a potential star. Eva Trapp showed much promise in the winter program.

With that said, let’s examine ‘OHIO BALLET CELEBRATES THE MAGIC OF DANCE: WINTER PROGRAM.” The opening number, “Nell Amore E La Devozione” examines “in love is devotion.” Due to an injury changes were made in the partnering and the second segment was cut. The piece opened with “Canto Della Terra” which featured intricate partnering danced to soaring music. A beautifully performed solo piece followed. “Sogno” was the highlight of the set, featuring the excellent partnering of Alicia Pitts and Brian Murphy, though the frenetic choreography didn’t fit the classical music. “Tremo E T Amo was nicely danced by Larissa Freude and Eric Carvill, though, again, the choreographed movements didn’t always fit the mood of the music. “The Prayer” featured excellent female dancing but group movements were often not coordinated.

Danced to the dual pianos of Margaret Baxtresser and David Fisher,“Spring Waters”is
a revival of acrobatics in Soviet ballet. Choreographed by Asaf Messerer, the very brief piece featured nice performances by Amanda Cobb and William Hoppe.

“GHOST TOWN,” which features the music of Richard Rodgers, was staged as part of the National Centennial Celebration to the famous theatre writer of such shows as ‘SOUTH PACIFIC’ and ‘CAROUSEL.’ This is the only ballet music written by Rogers. Mary Beth Hansohn and Damien Highfield performed the piece as part of ‘SHALL WE DANCE--A DANCE TRIBUTE TO RICHARD RODGERS’ at the City Center in New York on October 21, 2002. For the Ohio Ballet’s winter program Brian Murphy replaced Highfield. Performed to the excellent live piano music of Margaret Baxtresser and David Fisher, this was a playful piece, featuring many gymnastic movements. Hansohn and Murphy were excellent.

The grand pas de deux from “Don Quixote,”was a company premiere which featured Alicia Pitts and Dmitry Tubolstev. The work debuted in 1869 at the famed Moscow Bolshoi Theatre. Pitts sparkled. Her performance featured fine toe work and excellent solo moves. Tubolstev is the company’s highest leaper and does an excellent job of executing flying circles. Unfortunately, his partnering skills are lacking and he draws attention to his technique rather than to his dancing. He postures, poses and feigns involvement instead of actually being involved in his performance.

The final number was the “Firebird Suite,” based on the music of Igor Stravinsky. The futuristic approach to the fairy tale which examines the contrast between desolation and hope, the conflict between machine and humankind. After a compelling opening, which featured flashlights, fog, a mechanistic set, and sensational light effects, the piece ground to a chaotic but technically compelling conclusion complete with snow and spectacular lighting. Part of the problem centered on using many young children from local dance schools. The youngsters just did not have the dancing skills to carry their load. The timing of the adult dancers was often off. The over-all concept was not defined enough to make for clarity.

Capsule Judgement: The Ohio Ballet’s winter program was an acceptable, if not outstanding evening of dance. It’s too bad the company hasn’t picked up the challenge and filled the void left by the Cleveland San Jose Ballet. Our area needs and deserves a world class ballet company.