Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Verb Ballets (Nature Center)

VERB BALLETS, a treat at the Nature Center

On the way out of opening night of Verb Ballets’ ‘NATURE MOVES 2,’ which was staged at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s auditorium, a woman who
attends almost every dance program in the area gushed, “They are absolutely consistent. What a treat.”

Yes, she is right. Verb is consistent and they are a treat. Artistic Director Hernando Cortez has molded his company into a very effectively operating dance machine. The dancers are well-trained and perform with purpose and focus.

‘NATURE MOVES 2’ consisted of four pieces. The opening offering, danced in well designed black and white costumes by Suzy Campbell, was “Shadow of Nes-min.” It was based on The Book of the Dead, a collection of prayers and spells believed to provide
aid for the spirit of the deceased. The live piano music, excellently played by Michael Schneider, was proficiently interpreted by the dancers. Consisting of a number of dramatic poses and intricate body moves, the segment was danced well by the company. It is not a show stopper, but served as a good curtain raiser to show the skills of the company.

‘KU’U HOME,’ a company premiere, was pleasantly danced by newcomer Sydney Ignacio. He is a proficient dancer who, under the guidance of Cortez, should develop
well. He needs to learn to exude confidence and solidly stick his landings on leaps.

For those interested in classical ballet, Cortez incorporated ‘ANDANTE SOSTENUTO’ into the program. Choreographed originally by Heinz Poll, it is an
interpretation of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Second Movement Piano Concerto #2 in D minor. Anna Roberts, who never looked completely comfortable, danced the female role in this pas de deux. She displayed some nice toe work. Brian Murphy very competently partnered. It would have been nice to see Murphy given more of an opportunity to display his strong balletic skills.

‘WOLFGANG STRATEGIES,’ is a sprightly piece, set to several musical compositions of Wolfgang Mozart. A modern ballet with classical overtones, the world premiere, was an audience pleaser. Danced with flowing hands and high jumps, a feeling of abandon and glee was present as the dancers and audience alike smiled throughout. As in all the pieces in the program, Trad Burns lighting helped set the mood and visually guide the audience.

Burns’ and Cortez’s accomplishments in being able to create excellence is amazing as the Nature Museum’s space is a lecture hall, with a long narrow stage and none of the lighting instruments usually found in auditoriums. Bravo!

As I have stated in the past, Cortez needs to figure out where he is going next regarding the company’s personnel. He took a major step forward in putting Brian Murphy under contract. He has also added Sydney Ignacio to his corps of dancers. Ignacio is a work in progress. The women of the company continue to be excellent. Cortez has a major task. Competent male dancers are hard to find and the fact that Verb is a core rather than a star-centered company makes finding males even more difficult.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Verb Ballets continues to impress in its climb to its position as the area’s best and most consistent mid-sized dance company!