Monday, April 11, 2005

Contemporary Artists Collection (Verb Ballets)

Verb Ballets again proves its worth

During an intermission interview at Verb Ballets recent ‘CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS COLLECTION,’ which was presented as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Dance Works 05 program, Artistic Director Hernando Cortez shared that the company is going to hire his dancers to 30-week contracts. This is an exciting announcement. In these days of arts organizations cutting back on expenses, for a local company to give full-time employment to a corps of dancers is exceptional. It is a tribute to the wonderful job that Cortez and Executive Director Dr. Margaret Carlson have done in bringing this wonderful company to rapid prominence.

The opening piece, “MOZART PIANO TRIO IN C MAJOR,” was originally choreographed by Sean Curren in 2004. Dancing to the beautiful classical music the company interpreted well the feel of the music with flowing leaps, smooth gestures, extended arms, skipping, twirls, jigs, and gender neutral lifts and carries. Trad Burns’ lighting and Janet Bolick’s costumes added to the visually lovely presentation. Kallie Marie Bokal and Tracy Vogt were especially wonderful in their dancing.

Dancer-turned-choreographer Mark Tomasic’s ‘THE MEMORY ROOM,’ was first presented in 2004. Danced to the strong beat of music by Steve Reich and Moby, dancers Marcela Alvarez, Kallie Marie Bokal, Erin Conway, Elizabeth Flyyn and Anna Roberts were polished and poised. Trad Burns’ lighting created wonderful shadows which seemed to increase the 5 dancers into many more. Tomsic’s choreography fit the music.

Choreographer David Parsons’ SLEEP STUDY’ found the dancers costumed in pajamas, sleeping on the floor. As they tossed and turned in their sleep, they rolled on top of, over and spooned with each other. The delightful piece was summarized by one audience member as “the most adorable dance I’ve ever seen.” Right she was! ‘SLEEP STUDY’ is a sure audience pleaser.

Robert Wesner is not only a dancer with Verbs Ballet, but is a choreographer and performer for his own company, Neos Dance Theatre. His world premiere piece, ‘THE CHILD EPHEMERAL’ was performed to the lullabies of Armenian composer Masmik Harutyunyan as played by The Shoghaken Ensemble. The slow methodical choreography showed off the talents of the harlem clothed corps of dancers. The piece, with its sensual overtones, was beautifully danced, but was overly long.

Francis Poulenc’s piano music was the inspiration for ‘UNQUIET MINDS,’ a new piece choreographed by Hernando Cortez. Originally conceived for the American Ballet Theatre, Cortez did not finish the dance and it was never performed for the public. The present staging is a reinterpretation of the original choreography. The dance was placed in an imaginary space outlined by white tape on the floor which served as a box where a Grand puppeteer controls the thoughts and movements of the Commedia del Arte characters. The piece represents a yearning to be free of the commands of others and to be in control of one’s self. Trad Burns’ shadow-inducing lighting aided in mood development. The piece was well danced, but unfortunately the selection did not have the power or audience appeal to be a closing number.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Verb Ballets ‘CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS COLLECTION’ consisted of five well-conceived pieces. Each segment was uniquely different which added interest, but the length of the program far exceeded the attention span of the audience. This is not the first time the company’s programs have exceed a reasonable time limit. In the future, Cortez would be wise to take this into consideration.