Sunday, October 23, 2005

Verb Ballets--October 23 (Verb Ballets)


Verb Ballets, since it has come under the watchful guidance of Artistic Director Hernando Cortez and Executive Director, Dr. Margaret Carlson, has blossomed into one of the finest local dance companies. It has built a solid fan base as was illustrated by its SRO Playhouse Square performance last year and its continued solid audience numbers in their various other venus, such as Cain Park. Their recent residence at Cleveland Public Theatre was no exception. A Thursday night opening, usually a weak evening for attendance, was nearly sold out.

The audience’s desire for excellent dancing, polished performances and creative illusion were well met.

Cortez’s world premiere piece, “Backlash,” was stunning. Dancing before mylar streamers, the dancers, clothed in similar material, sparkled and shimmered. The non linear dance mirrored the music by Eric Ziolek. “Verbtuosity,” in its world premiere, was played superbly by saxophonist John Perrine and peercussionist Benjamin Winters. (Perrine also entertained before and after the piece with a solid jazz performance.) Trad Burns’ lighting effectively highlighted the dancers as they moved in and out of shadows, creating abstract images by angular and discordant moves. Marcela Alvarez, Danielle Brickman, Erin Conway, Glynn Owens, Mark Tomasic and Tracy Vogt worked in perfect sync. This is a winning addition to the Verb Ballets’ repertoire.

Mark Tomasic is one of, if not “the” premiere local male dancer. His dance talent, excellent physical control, powerful gym-toned body and good looks, puts him well above his peers. Not satisfied with his reputation as a dancer, Tomasic has decided to branch out and establish himself as a choreographer. So far his choreography hasn’t reached the same level as his dancing. His “Before the Time After” is a case in point. Danced to the music of J. S. Bach, the dancers spent much of the piece removing sand from pails upstage, carrying handfuls downstage, sprinkling the sand on the apron of the stage and writing messages into the granules. As the man sitting next to me whispered, “I don’t know what’s going on.” I readily agreed. The dancers were well disciplined, confident in their movements, but failed to create a coherent impression.

Choreographer Troy McCarty’s world premiere ‘TANGO NON GENDER’ was excellent. Both sensual and disciplined, the light piece was danced to three tango rhythms with classical ballet movements in a tango environment. McCarty threw stereotypical partnering to the winds as men danced with men, women danced with women, women performed as leads and men performed as followers. The result was gender bending effective.

Cortez’s ‘LIKE BEING AWAKE SLEEPING AND HEARING SEEING”made for a long but enjoyable sit. Called a surrealist manifesto, any attempt to figure out a story, to gain a message, is an exercise in futility.

Danced to the music of Sasha and John Digweed, the quick movements fit the rapid music and rather than creating a unified piece it was a series of disjointed movements. The over-all effect is like walking through an art gallery, glancing at images after images, that have not been arranged by theme. Each composition stands alone as does each of the performances and performers in this creation.

It is not surprising that Cortez credits his inspiration for the work to Max Ernst and Meret Oppenheim, two of the world greatest surrealistic artists. Ernst is credited with developing the medium of collage. Oppenheim, is noted for the use of unusual materials to create art. One of her most famous pieces, for example was a teacup and saucer created of fur.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Verb Ballets continues to excite and excel! Those who have not taken advantage of seeing this company, which is quickly becoming the major force in local dance, should attend upcoming performances.