Sunday, January 27, 2008

Groundworks and Verb Ballets (1/25, 1/26)

Area’s premiere dance companies perform same dates, next to each other

For a period of time our area’s dance aficionados felt lost when The Cleveland-San Jose Ballet ditched us for the west coast. C-SJB’s place was taken by some small companies, several of whom have matured to the point of gaining recognition by local and national dance critics for excellence.

Interestingly, the two premiere companies, Verb Ballets and Groundworks, performed this past weekend on Playhouse Square, each to near sold out audiences. Groundworks performed in the Idea Center, Verb in the Ohio. Both gave their followers, many of whom saw Groundworks on Friday and then Verb on Saturday, fine evenings of entertainment.

GROUNDWORKS (seen 1/25)
The Idea Center at Playhouse Square is a perfect venue for David Shimotakahra’s up-close and personal philosophy of dance.

The program opened with yet another staging of ‘ALWAYS’ as choreographed by Gina Gibney. The piece has became a staple in Groundworks performances. Well danced by Amy Miller, Sarah Perrett, Mark Otloski and Damien Highfield, it uses the music of Patsy Cline to create a country music meets contemporary dance mélange. Clever transitions between dance segments, interesting lifts, creative hand movements, creative carries and touches led to a pleasant program opener.

‘KNOW,’ choreographed by Shimotakahara, was performed to the music of Leonard Bernstein played live by the talented Solaris Woodwind Quintet. Originally conceived for two men—Michael Medcalf and Shimotakahara, it has recently been danced by Amy Miller and Felise Bagley. Though different when performed by two women than by two men, the visual effect is very positive. Strong and powerful Miller is balanced nicely by the cool and delicate Bagley. The two create a mood in which music and movements blend together to create a very appealing action-reaction cohesive piece of dance.

A musical interlude, “The Golden Cannon,” performed by the Solaris Woodwind Quintet, was met with very appreciative reaction by the audience.

‘DELAYED,’ a world premiere, was choreographed by Israeli choreographer, Zvi Gotheiner, who has been in residence and was present at the performance. The piece, which was too long, was performed to the abstract atonal music of Terry Riley. The sound, after a while, becomes unnerving. The bodily movements interpreted well Gotheiner’s concept of established and lost connections, opportunities not fulfilled and interactions never resolved. The company danced effectively, but the music and the choreography did not always grab and hold attention. The audience’s response was polite applause.

VERB BALLETS (seen 1/26)
Verb opened its program with Heinz Poll’s sensual, precise, mesmerizing ‘BOLERO,’ danced to the music of Ravel. The choreography, which was restaged by Amy Miller, ironically of Groundworks, ended with the audience screaming appreciation. Strong dancing by Catherine Meredith was supported by an inspired corps.

‘DUET,’ another Poll piece, was beautifully danced by the lovely Danielle Brickman and Brian Murphy, who seems to have emerged from the shadow of the now departed Mark Tomasic, to become the powerhouse performer among local male dancers. The duo’s partnering was point perfect. Their control and flow, as they moved to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Adagio for Organ,’” which was played with artistic perfection by David Fisher at the piano and cellist Greg Fiocca, was wonderful to watch.

‘SONGS,’ originally created by the company’s artistic director Hernando Cortez in 2007, has been reworked. The German vocalization of Gustav Mahler’s heavy Symphony just doesn’t help the audience understand the tone-poem’s message. Though well performed, the piece became ponderous after a while. Highlights included solo performances by Robert Wesner, Brian Murphy and Sydney Ignacio.

The final piece of the evening, ‘FRONTROW,’ was in its world premiere. Also choreographed by Cortez, it was a compelling visual creation. Trad Burns’ iridescent Mylar columns and creative lighting made the stage shimmer. Brittney and Gina Dudek’s brief Mylar costumes added to the visual excitement. The well conceived and danced piece left both the audience and the dancers happily exhausted. This is a fine addition to the Verb repertoire.