Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rockin' Summer, Verb Ballets 7/11

ROCKIN’ SUMMER: Verb Ballets at Cain Park

It was a hot night in the open-air Cain Park Evans theatre. On stage was Verb Ballets performing a program with a world premiere by a former Cleveland School of the Arts dancer/choreographer and a duo of company premiers.

CONTIUUM, choreographed by Antonio Brown, with a Remix of music by Brown, featured mood setting lighting by Trad Burns.

The piece, whose movements well fit the changing moods of the sounds, was the highlight of the evening. Filled with energetic movements, the dancers performed with confidence and discipline. The creation was a moving collage of weaving bodies, aerobic dynamics, flowing arms, contrasting forms and visual energy.

Brown not only created a strong piece, but obviously found a way to work with the company’s many new, as well as the experienced dancers. Bravo Antonio, we want to see more of your work!

SONG WITHOUT WORDS is choreographer Heinz poll’s tribute to those lost in the Holocaust. It was performed to the live playing of pianist David Fisher, who performed for years with the Ohio Ballet under Poll. Fisher created the music’s arrangement.

The story ballet, was enhanced by dark mood lighting, highlighted by the darkening skies which could be seen over the black backdrop in front of a line of the park’s shimmering trees.

Poll’s purposeful choreography showed the strife of those who became victims of the Nazis. Poll based the story on the poem Butterfly by Czech poet, Pavel Friedman who spent much of the war in Thereisenstadt where the poem was found after the war. He died after being transferred to Aushwitz. The poem ends with the poignant line, “That butterfly was the last one. Butterflies don't live in here, in the ghetto.”

Though there was a lack of cohesion in several parts, an excellent duet by Brian Murphy and Stephanie Krise, some strong dancing by Rebecca Nicklos and Kara Madden, a nice trio by Katie Gnagy, Jason Wang and Danielle Brickman, and an angst filled solo by Jarrod Sickles, were the piece’s highlights.

The unspecific costumes didn’t visually set the mood nor identify the people. If these were Jews, why no yarmulkes, tizzies or the required gold stars of David?

The opening number, JANIS & JOE, a 2011-2012 company premiere, was ragged. The ballet, as choreographed by Christopher Fleming, seemed under rehearsed, with many tenuous movements, poor corps timing, and some weak partnering. Maybe all the new male dancers, and the inclusion of a group of youngsters, was just too much to coordinate, but, this was a disappointing and underwhelming performance.

Capsule judgement: Verb Ballets’ ROCKIN’ SUMMER was an uneven evening of dance. The performance’s highlight was CONTINUUM, choreographed by Cleveland School for the Arts’ graduate Antonio Brown.