Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ohio Ballet - Playhouse Square

Ohio Ballet presents overly-long generally pleasing program

Ohio Ballet’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Graham Hughes obviously has never heard the old adage, “The mind can absorb what the seat can endure.” If so, he would have realized that his recently conceived ‘SPRINGFEST PROGRAM,’ which was staged both in Akron and Cleveland, was much too long.

The program was so lengthy, that following the second intermission, there was a mass exit of the already sparse audience. It was a shame that many left as Hughes’ nicely conceived “Upon Rays of Light” wrapped up the program.

The evening started with Victoria Morgan’s staging of ‘PETER AND THE WOLF’ danced to the recorded music of Sergei Prokofiev. The piece is intended to teach children about the sounds of the various musical instruments. Morgan transformed the setting onto a school’s playground and included a basketball hero, a swim team captain and the school principal. Though the idea was clever, the effect was problematic. The scenery, mainly consisting of a jungle gym and blow-up swimming pool, restricted the dancing. In addition, the decision to read the narration and then dance it caused a doubling in length of the piece and made the dancing redundant. In addition, the choreography was not coherent. The interpretation lacked needed playfulness.

Sam Watson’s ‘HI JINKS,’ which was inspired by the TV variety and comedy shows of the 1950’s and 60’s, was delightful. Well paced and often danced with abandon, the dancers nicely exaggerated the moves and were aided by bizarre costumes and wigs. The highlight segment was “Fooling Around” as performed by Larissa Freud, Katie Keith, Eric Carvill and Seth Parker.

The ‘GRAND PAS CLASSIQUE’ was a presentation of classic ballet. Daniel Francois Aubert’s music was adeptly played by pianist David Fisher, though the solo piano’s sound failed to fill the auditorium. The tall and attractive duet of Eva Trapp and Toby George were quite adequate, though not of world class quality. Trapp’s toe work and circle turns were done with nice control. Though he had some trouble with some of his leaps and landings, George did a fine job of partnering. Cynthia Gregory’s elegant costumes created the proper visual illusion.

The 12 part uninspiring ‘MAZURKAS’ was too much of the same thing. Choreographed by Jose Limon the piece needed cutting. Highlights included a wonderful duet by Kristin Knapp and Brian Murphy. Alicia Pitts’ solo (Opus 30, no. 2 in B minor) was compelling. She displayed excellent body control, ease of movement, and appropriate facial expression. Brian Murphy, the company’s most talented male dancer, presented Opus 59, no 2 in A-flat, which was danced with the right dramatic tone and sure moves. Chopin’s music was well played by pianist David Fisher.

The evening eventually ended with the beautifully costumed and well-conceived ‘UPON RAYS OF LIGHT.’ Danced to recorded music of Ravi Shankar, the company was at its best in this piece. Kristin Knapp’s opening solo was beautifully interpreted. The second segment, danced by the entire company, showed disciplined body control, fine partnering and a nice parallel between the often exotic sounds of the music and movements of the bodies.