Sunday, August 23, 2009

Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet, Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom….a wonderful blend!

Combine the world class Joffrey Ballet, with the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra, and place them in the lush Blossom Center on a crisp August evening. The results? A very special experience.

Blossom Music Center has hosted such ballet luminaries as Nureyev, Baryshnikov, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Vienna State Opera Ballet. But that was in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Most recently, the Blossom stage has been void of dance. Now, thanks to DANCECleveland, the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival and the University of Akron, for two performances, the stage was alight with marvelous dancing, the orchestra pit filled with the Cleveland Orchestra, and the large audience treated to the best of the best.

The program consisted of five selections of various moods and lengths. The opening number, ‘KETTENTANZ,’ was a chain dance set to the music of Johann Strauss Sr. and Johann Mayer. Combining classical movement with waltzes, gallops and polkas, the company was sprightly in showcasing various dancers in the nine pieces. The highlights were “Kettenbrück Waltz” performed by Jonathan Dummar and Victoria Jaiani, “Eisele und Beisele Sprüng,’ highlighted by the dancing of the delightful and adorable Anastacia Holden, “Schnofler Tanz,” with excellent toe work by Christine Rocas, and “Chachucha Galop” featuring fine parallel dancing by April Daly and Victoria Jaiani. In all segments, the dancers were proficient, movements perfectly timed to the musical alterations, and performer synchronizations well coordinated. Time flowed by during the thirty-two minute charming and challenging piece.

Alexander Calder developed an art movement centering on Moving Objects Behaving In Linear Equiposie, known to many as mobiles (using the first letter of his apt description). Choreographer Tomm Ruud used the Calder image to create his piece, ‘MOBILE.’ Interrupted by constant applause and sighs of “ohs” and “ahs,” Caitlin Meighan, Tiani Shuai and Abigail Simon awed the audience with their strength and fluidity. It was a study in body control and skill. Jack Hehler’s lighting added to the effect by casting shadow movements onto the back and side walls of the stage, creating a constant moving mobile of bodies and shadows. This was a show highlight!

‘CLOVEN KINGDOM,’ as choreographed by Paul Taylor, pictured man as a civilized social animal who also has the natural instincts of a wild beast. Danced to a baroque score, contrasted with contemporary percussive music, the dual level dance actions paralleled the dual musical sounds. Civilized and primitive, the dancers walked and stalked, and were elegant and animalistic. Though overly long, the point-counter point of the movements was effective in developing the conceiver’s intent. The male dancers were extremely effective in this selection.

Choreographed by Gerald Arpino to the music of Gustav Mahler, ‘ROUND OF ANGELS’ was lovely and soothing. The image of two central figures (Victoria Jaini and Thomas Nicholas) surrounded by five men representing broken-winged angels, created a strong depth of feeling. Only twelve minutes in length, the emotional sound of the music, coupled with the heartfelt movement of the dancers, made this a very special piece of dance telling the story of the depth of loss.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘CAROUSEL’ is one of the great pieces of musical theatre. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon decided to develop a balladic piece as a tribute to Rodgers. Using the “Carousel Waltz” music from the play, combining it with other music from the show, mainly “If I Loved You” and “The Soliloquy,” Wheeldon tried to recreate the entire storyline in an abbreviated time. Though the visual effects were excellent, especially the recreation of a moving carousel, using the bodies of the dancers and some poles, the overall effect was somewhat lacking. Unless you could insert the necessary “rest of the story,” the heartbreak of the tale was not present. Part of the problem, was Fabrice Calmels unemotional Billy. He did not give the needed tortured feelings that drive Billy to his reactions to falling in love and making life changing decisions. April Daly was lovely as Julie.

Assistant conductor Tito Munoz and the Cleveland Orchestra moved through the music with precision and the needed variances, allowing the dancers to create the needed illusions. It was a fine melding of two art forms into a cohesive whole.

Capsule judgement: What a wonderful night! We can only hope that the forces that brought the Joffrey and the Cleveland Orchestra together will take swift action to make dance a regular part of future Blossom seasons.