Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Lar Lubovitch Dance, Verb Ballets (11/1/08)

Lar Lubovitch Dance captivates, Verb Ballets needs to ask itself some questions

Within the last several weeks, Cleveland’s dance enthusiasts were given several opportunities to see major dance companies. Lar Lubovitch Dance is one of America’s most highly acclaimed dance companies. Verb Ballets is recognized as a leading local company. They both danced at the Ohio Theatre a week apart.

Lar Lubovitch, the founder of the company which bears his name, is generally recognized as a staging super star. He has choreographed more than 100 dances for his New York based company, as well as directing Broadway shows. His background as a painter carries over into his choreography. He uses the bodies of the dancers to paint fascinating pictures. He also directs the costume designers and lighting technicians to enhance his visual images. The overall effect is captivating.

The program, sponsored by Tri-C Performing Arts and DANCECleveland, was performed to a near sold-out house. Their enthusiastic applause and verbal responses attested to their delight with the evenings’ offerings which included a mélange of ballet, modern, contemporary and ethnic dance.

“Allegro,” the opening segment of “Concerto Six Twenty-Two,” was a composition of flowing bodies costumed in white which incorporated lines and circles with a gymnastic center and humorous inserts. “Adagio,” which examined friendship, was totally charismatic. It featured the powerful lifts and intertwining of the bodies of Jay Franke and George Smallwood. “Rondo” had a wonderful “aw shucks” attitude.

“Jangle” was a brilliant interpretation of four Hungarian dances complete with hand slaps, bottle dance-like movements and other ethnic moves. There was a perfect parallel between the musical sounds and the movements.

“Dvorák Serenade” was a balletic interpretation of the music of Antonin Dvorák. Consisting of four segments, it captivated the audience with flowing movements and the creation of attractive visual images. Strong dancing by Mucuy Bolles and Scott Rink, a long-time company member, made the piece captivating.

Capsule judgement: Lar Lubovitch presented a wonderful evening of dance. This is a world class company. It can only be hoped that Tri-C and DANCECleveland will bring back this exciting ensemble.

As exciting as Lar Lubovitch was, that’s almost how disappointing Verb Ballets has been in their recent concerts. Verb has been one of my favorite local companies. In the past I’ve raved about the creative direction of the company. Unfortunately, in the last year or so, I’ve seen a deterioration of energy and creativity. There are seemingly multiple causes. The loss of two strong male dancers who were not replaced has led to the lack of a strong male presence. Company members seem distracted, not displaying enthusiasm, not excited by what they are dancing. The corps has traditionally danced in sync. There was a precision to the movements. This, too, has not been maintained.

“Verb Ballets All Stars!” was an interesting concept. The combining of three Ohio dance companies. The results was a pleasant, but not captivating evening of dance.

The opening piece, danced to Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” was staged by Hernando Cortez, Verb’s artistic director. A strong solo by Brian Murphy, one of the company’s strengths, was the highlight of the piece. The flowing movements, accented by flowing hands and tilted bodies, centered on the religious use of body positions which created illusions of the cross.

‘UNRESOLVED’ was a short piece by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, which examined conflicted lovers. The piece, which had a strong emotional center, was well received by the audience.

“RUBIES, originally choreographed by George Balanchine, was performed by the Cincinnati Ballet. It was a pleasant piece whose movements did not always parallel the music.

“AFTERIMAGE,” was choreographed by Verb’s Hernando Cortez. It was an investigation of being human and was performed by combination of Verbs Ballets and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company members. The first segment, “Afterimage,” was adequately danced by Sydney Ignacio, but lacked dynamism and precision. Brian Murphy gave a strong and controlled performance in “Dark Wood.” Hershel Deandre Horner III of the Dayton Company, was very effective in “A Moment More.”

The final segment, 'VESPERS, was performed by Verb Ballets and choreographed by Ulyssses Dove and restaged by Dawn Carter. It was danced to the music of Mikel Rouse. The physically exhausting piece, was generally well danced. The fast movements from chair to chair paralleled the passions and spirtuality of women who have a faith and belief in God that allows them to race physically and emotionally from place to place, life problem to life problem. The only weakness was the consistent breakdown of timing from the middle of the straight lines. One of the dancers was always too early or too late in her movements, thus causing a lack of visual unity.

Capsule judgement: The idea of bringing three major Ohio dance companies together was an excellent scheme. It would be a good idea to duplicate this effort in the future. As for Verb appears that the company’s leadership needs to ask itself how it can regain its past path, because lately the magic is gone.