Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dracula and Oher Love Stories

Ohio Dance Theatre brings love to The Breen Center

When the Cleveland San Jose Ballet left town, it left a void. There appeared to be no regularly performing company that presented ballet. Yes, touring companies came in. Raymond Rodriguez and Karen Gabay’s Point of Departure popped up on occasion and gave hope for a return of a company that would showcase ballet.

What was overlooked was Artistic Director Denise Gula and her Ohio Dance Theatre, housed in Oberlin. Regularly appearing at Lorain County Community College, where Gula was the school’s first dance instructor, and making some west side of Cuyahoga county performances, the company brings a unique presence to local stages when it performs. Many of its numbers are ballet. Yes, pointe shoes, classic lifts and story telling ballet.

In their latest appearance in the Cleveland area, appearing at the Breen Center, the company performed to a nearly full-house on a snowy February 10 evening. The balanced program touched on various types of love….love of country, dreamy love, passionate love, obsessive love.

A new work, THE DREAM, choreographed by Lisa Lock, found the red, black and white costumed dancers moving to Ekectrocutango and Elecrotango. Staged with contemporary ballet movements, a dreamer and her dream characters created a fine parallel to the Latin moods and rhythms.

CARMEN, danced to the sensual music of Georges Bizet, was a fast paced, melodramatic vision created by Gula. It featured rapid moves, nice lifts and carries, and a variance from the usual CARMEN done with capes and bullfighting. The costuming worked well, except one can only wonder why Morgan Stinnet (Jose) was dressed in black chino pants, which was out of character and seemed to cut off his free flowing movements throughout the evening.

An excerpt from DRACULA, with music by John Pryce-Jones/Alfred Schnittke,

found the dancers performing in a gated-cemetery complete with gravestones and mysterious lighting. It was somber, dramatic and well fit the foreboding music. Kyle Primous was a visually imposing Dracula and Juliana Freude was a tempting tidbit for the bloodthirsty being.

BEYOND COURAGE was a tribute to World War II veterans, some of whom gave their lives while others suffered emotional scars, for love of country.

Set to video footage from composer Stephen Melillo’s THAT WE MIGHT LIVE, THEN, NOW. FOREVER., a documentary in music, the performance piece showed the battles of Bataan and Corregidor. The battle which lasted 3 years, 8 months and 25 days, resulted in 31,095 people losing their lives. Visual images and vocal transcriptions were seen and heard as the dancers moved.

A little overly long, BEYOND COURAGE was filled with melodrama and flag waving. The first part was powerful, but after an oral letter quoting segment, the effect wore off as more and more emphasis was placed on visuals and less on dancing.

The program was nicely balanced by two impressive interludes of music performed by the Credo String Quintet, a product of the Oberlin Conservatory’s Chamber Music Program.

Capsule judgement: Ohio Dance Theatre’s DRACULA AND OTHER LOVE STORIES was a nice balanced program of music, ballet and contemporary dance.