Carolina Ballet opened its mostly-Balanchine program with artistic director Robert Weiss's Jota Aragonese, to the Glinka music of several minutes' duration. To open a program with 12 of the company's 38 dancers was not a bad idea, but the choreography looked to me less responsive musically than the ballet Weiss made a year or two ago to a Stravinsky symphony for many of the company's men, who had nothing to do in Serenade on that program. Worse, the lighting was pretty dim except for the follow-spots for the principals or soloists.
But the dancing, as far as I could see, was quite the large and clear dancing that seems to be their style (with some exceptions to be noted), and I think the dancers deserved better lighting. (I hardly needed to search for Fabry in the corps because she was distinguished there by her supple and beautiful arms and generally, the completeness and finish of her dancing.)
After a pause, though, things brightened up in more ways than one with the pas de deux from Balanchine's Square Dance, given a suitably but not excessively gaggy rendition by Lilyan Vigo and Attila Bongar.
After intermission, La Sonnambula also looked quite good onstage as far as lighting, costumes, and set were concerned. (Scenery and costumes were credited to Pacific Northwest Ballet.) But while the dancing of this company looks secure, characterization and dramatic point are sometimes pretty weak. Lara O'Brien (another Ballet Chicago alumna) was telling in her premonitions both when the Poet (Timour Bourtasenkov) first appears and later as those earlier premonitions are about to be realized, and lovely as well as clear in her pas de deux with him, the first of the the big pas de deux in this strange, plotty ballet from "the master of the plotless ballet", and a conventional contrast to the later one, one of the strangest in the repertory, and in which Melissa Podcasy as The Sleepwalker brought out much of the agitation, or should I say, disturbance, in this role, which is sometimes made too smooth and tranquil to suggest a mind unhinged.
Where the performance fell a little short was in O'Brien's and Bourtasenkov's reactions to the offstage goings-on with the Poet and The Sleepwalker later; someone paying the slightest attention to the discordant outbursts in Rieti's music at those moments might wonder from the stage action what all the fuss was about, and Bourtasenkov's merely holding his dagger up for us to see as he heads off stage rather than gripping it in preparation for the attack (as I remember Shaun O'Brien did for Balanchine's company years ago) undercut the intensity of the tragedy here.
As the ancient Greeks knew, tragedy is best followed by comedy in the most general meaning of the term, a narrative with a happy ending, and so The Four Temperaments made a good conclusion to the program. (I don't know whether Mr. Weiss had ever heard of this ancient discovery or just relied on his own theatre instincts: Send them out happy!)
Barbara Toth danced First Theme just conscientiously with Martin Vignolo, substituting for Eugene Shlapko. With Lara O'Brien in Second Theme with Nicholas Hagelin, though, the dancing looked more like it was coming from within, and this was true of Hong Yang and Wei Ni's Third Theme, too.
Gabor Kapin's account of Melancholic Variation was not so full as some I've seen, but true; and he was flanked by Fabry's simple and direct dancing of one of the demi roles, just what it requires, opposite Erica Sabatini. By this time it was clear we were getting the text of "4T's" and not another caricature like the one shown by NYCB in Chicago a year and a half ago.
Nevertheless, Lilyan Vigo and Attila Bongar offered a less sanguine (i.e. less full-bloded) Sanguinic Variation than some I've seen, oddly contrasting their exuberant Stars and Stripes excerpt earlier, and Eugene Barnes had more than just the ability to balance forever on one foot that Phlegmatic Variation requires.
The last Variation, Choleric, got a fine, agitated realisation from Margot K. Martin: Just short of anger, heated, and good, and a little better integrated up and down her body than Colleen Neary in the "Choreography by Balanchine" video, where Neary's legs look a little independent, as they often did on stage, although, as Balanchine's dancers did, she danced very large. And then that expansive finale gathers itself into an optimistic conclusion for the evening...
Edited by Jack Reed, 01 February 2009 - 04:06 PM.