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Washington Ballet's season opener


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#16 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 05:31 PM

Kathleen Breen Combs has moved to Boston Ballet. Not sure about Richard, but I think there were problems with his visa and staying in this country. I could be wrong about that. Some of the new people are Trainees, and one apprentice. Luis Torres is a new company member, originally from Puerto Rico, but danced with Ballet Arizona for several years prior to coming here.

#17 Mike Gunther

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 01:35 PM

Hi all,

It's great to read so many posters to the WB! I saw the Sat. matinee but didn't post right away (was distracted by a dear friend from out of town who came to visit shortly after - too bad she just missed the performance, as I'm sure she would have enjoyed it too.) It seems there are a variety of opinions/reactions to the individual works on this quite diverse program, but everybody found something to like:

Momentum - compared to my earlier memories of this piece, the ensemble seemed to hesitate in one or two spots, although nothing fatal. It was great to see it again. In the mid-80's the WB was *the* Choo San Goh company, and while they have grown and diversified greatly since then, it is such a great heritage that I want them with all my heart to keep that magnificent flame alive.

Poet - I really liked this, so I hope you don't mind if I go on about it. It was very evocative for me, and Bland/Nelson danced beautifully (are they a couple? They sure dance like one!) Choreography, staging, and music worked together seamlessly. The basic movements are actually allegro, but put together with a long-line adagio feel - a very winning development in Septime's choreography! I can't wait to see what he puts around it in the longer work. It was originally conceived as an Annunciation, but (perhaps cued by the title) I felt it during performance as a "poet and muse." Bland and Nelson generously danced this again last night (Friday, Oct. 24) at the Studio Company performance, and in close up it holds beautifully, even in a bare-bones studio setting. I'll go out on a limb and predict that this artistic and psychologically deep pas de deux is going straight into the permanent repertoire.

Nocturne - a Jason Hartley production from start to finish, this piece - half yoga, half gymkata, all Jason - left me slack-jawed in admiration. The barely controlled, push-all-boundaries athleticism of its central section is bracketed by a short, but compelling, "monkey dance" sequence (derived from Indonesian Kechak?) that opens and closes the piece. The inexorable transition from stillness to explosive energy, and back again to stillness, is mesmerizing and highly effective. When Hartley danced this at the Studio performance, you could hear groans from the audience as he hit the floor, repeatedly but in perfect control. Amazingly - I swear this is true - in both performances, he didn't even break a sweat. I credit his prana (abdominal breathing, which was prominently featured in the dance.) I'ts an astonishing physical intelligence, and - it almost goes without saying - another one for the permanent repertoire, assuming, that is, that anyone other than Hartley could ever prove capable of dancing it. Hartley and Elizabeth Mertz (another fine yoga-dancer and former WB member) should marry, and produce numerous dance offspring.

Middle - I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Industrial Chic (the basic milieu of this dance), but let's give Forsythe his due. 90% of dance is illusion, but Forsythe's goal in this piece was to show the physicality behind the illusion: the bare and unadorned stage, the dancers' bodies as they are (tights + fishnet tops), the isolated movements, the sheer effort, the work-in-itself. It's a great challenge, and the company rose to it magnificently.

Firebird - in any other context, the company's fine performance of this neoclassical icon would garner favorable reviews. However, when presented side-by-side with the modernist choreography and gut-physical excitement of the previous dances, this Firebird seems to have flown in from a different program altogether, an incongruous (when compared to the afternoon's other works) reminder of a different time and culture. Putting together a coherent program is a great, and too-little appreciated, art; this firebird would have been happier in some other, more neoclassical, assembly.


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