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Columbia Ballet CollaborativeReview of fall performances, November19-21 2008


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#1 flipsy

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Posted 23 November 2008 - 12:04 PM

Ah, youth. The Columbia Ballet Collaborative marked its second year of existence this week with an evening of new choreography – most of it by dancer/students too young and inexperienced to be either conventional or obscure. The result was a program of original, distinctive and promising work, and a big step forward for this unique university company formed by former and current professional dancers.

Topping the bill as both a choreographer and dancer was Kimi Nikaidoh, formerly of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Her choreography to a Brahms cello sonata actually added something to the music – vigorous, contrapuntal movement for six women dashing in and out of lines and patterns, with a lovely circling duet for Victoria North and Chantelle Pianetta. Nikaidoh came back later as a lead dancer in Emery LeCrone’s techno-pop “Figurine.” She was scarily convincing as a dancer in some disco hell, trying and at last succeeding in beating a retreat from a crowd of black-clad, mind-blown clones, led by a sinister Ted Seymour.

Simple human emotions are all too rare in contemporary dance, but they were plain to see in a piece by Glenna Clifton, in honor of four people, three of them young, who died in the last two years. “What Branches Grow” begins with a shriek and a fall, followed by a rite of mourning, a slow and sporadic knitting-up of the rent fabric of young lives. It was danced by seven young women led by a passionate Sara Paul, and an eighth who defines the time-frame of the piece by methodically folding a pile of crumpled clothes. The stricken sisters eventually pick up her motif of folding, and smoothing, and finally putting away.

The most unusual piece on the program was a muscular meditation by Lydia Walker and Phillip Askew, “Variations on Surya Namaskar” or the sun-worship familiar to practitioners of Hatha Yoga. This included the ultimate Downward Dog – woman face-down on the man’s back, his two hands into the floor, feet slowly lifting and the woman wheeling through space to balance in an upside-down split. It was intimate, physical, odd, and real.

Some of the other pieces showed signs of nascent sophistication, e.g. a supercool, mirror-like pas de deux by Avichai Scher that looked too much like Christopher Wheeldon in his Morphoses mode. Also, it was probably a mistake to try to get the jump on the “Nutcracker” season with unremarkable new steps to the “snow” and “marzipan” themes.

But all that was redeemed by a funny, destructive takeoff on romance to Chopin piano music. Instead of perfumed couples a la “In the Night,” Brian Arias gives us a lonely, leering, stomping, stumbling drunk, danced with nutty verve by Elysia Dawn who looks like she’s groping for an invisible lamp post.

Columbia Ballet Collaborative has a lot going for it – dancers with professional training and Ivy-League intelligence, space and a subsidy from the university, and a rich pool of talent in the neighborhood. And best of all, youth. This program played to overflow crowds in a Barnard dance studio. Next April they’ll open across the street, at Columbia’s major-league Miller Theatre.

#2 socalgal

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 06:51 AM

I am thrilled to such good reports about CBC. These certainly are remarkable kids. So sorry I couldn't be there. Hopefully I can attend the April performances. And yes, these are ambitious and talented students with very busy academic workloads. My hats off to them!

#3 bart

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 07:57 AM

Thanks, flipsy, for reporting on this. I should add, for those not familiar with the group or who haven't read earlier reviews, that this is a Columbia Unversity project and that it's located right up the Broadway line from Lincoln Center.

Maybe we need a new company forum to consolidate previous and future threads.

Columbia Ballet Collaborative has a lot going for it – dancers with professional training and Ivy-League intelligence, space and a subsidy from the university, and a rich pool of talent in the neighborhood. And best of all, youth.

That's a combination to make many other small companies envious. Many, many have the youth, training, talent, and intelligence. But also to have money, a choice of spaces, and a large, enthusiastic dance audience: now THAT'S a blessing. :)


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