Saturday, May 06, 2006

Verb Ballets (Fusion Fest, Cleveland Play House)

VERB BALLETS at Fusion Fest and the summer season dance calendar

Fusion Fest, the creation of Michael Bloom, Artistic Director of the Cleveland Play House, has wrapped up. He indicated on closing night that financially the event is projected to reach its hoped for receipts. A special tribute must be accorded to Philanthropist Roe Green whose financial support made Fusionfest 2006 possible.

It was exciting to feel excitement in the Cleveland Play House facility where all four of the theatres were simultaneously in use.

According to Bloom, he was very pleased with this project which brought together many of the area’s theatre, dance and music performers offering new works. Included were Dobama, CPH, Cleveland School of the Arts, Opera Cleveland, MOCA and Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theater, Karamu House, Shaker Heights High School, Cleveland Museum of Art and Verb Ballets.

Verb Ballets, which has quickly established itself as one of the area’s best dance companies, presented ‘CELEBRATING CLEVELAND COMPOSERS,’ a program consisting of four pieces, including a world premiere. The divesity of the program added to the evening’s value.

‘SIX EASY PIECES,’ which the company added to its repertoire in March of this year, was danced to the music of Jonathan Sheffer and played by pianist Michael Schneider. It was a melange of moods in both music and dance movements. As is always the case with Hernando Cortez’s choreography, the dancing perfectly fit the music. The energy, lifts, carries, intertwining and partnering were all on target. Highlights included “Tango” which featured Kallie Marie Bokal and Mark Tomasic and “Prelude After Chopin” featuring Catherine Meredith and Anna Roberts.

‘BACKLASH,’ with music by Eric Ziolek, featured Saxophonist John Perrine and Percussionist Benjamin Winters. The tone for the number, which featured contemporary mylar sets and costumes, was laid by Perrine who meandered down the theatre’s aisle playing the jazzy music on his sax. Displaying signature Cortez concepts of excellent body control, strong arm reaches, slanting bodies and clear moves, the piece was aesthetically dynamic. Jordan Katz and Studio Sangha and Gina Dudik’s costumes and Trad Burns’ lights all perfectly melded together.

‘SHADOW OF NES-MIN’ is based on The Book Of The Dead, a collection of prayers and spells believed to provide aid for the spirit of the deceased. In this world premiere, the women were garbed in flowing yellow gowns, while the bare-chested men wore black leotards. The choreography consisted of slow-paced stylistic moves and freezes. There were no traditional dance lifts or partnering. The flow of human bodies which formed varying patterns was often mesmerizing.

The evening ended with the dynamic ‘PLANET SOUP,’ Cortez’s tribute to ethnic globalization featuring folk and vernacular dances ranging from Indian traditional to African ritual to Irish reels. Cortez terms the work “cross-cultural fusion.” It displayed the virtuosity of the company as they mixed styles of dance. The highlight was the Filipino pole dance with clapping poles featuring the dynamic Jason Ignacio.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Verbs Ballets continues to develop a strong following of loyal patrons as it grows and grows in developing its own repertoire of dances while stressing creativity and consistency.