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Sacramento Ballet/Hamlet, Hemlines, and more


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Posted 22 February 2003 - 04:54 PM

Here's my review of the Sacramento Ballet's final performance of Hamlet last Sunday:

Even though it’s been several years since I’ve seen the Sacramento Ballet perform, I had extremely high expectations for this afternoon’s performance. It was here, as a little girl, that I first became enraptured with the world of ballet after seeing the company perform The Nutcracker.
Founded by Barbara Crockett in 1954 it became a professional company in 1986, employing 28 dancers (including six apprentices) under a 33-week contract. Each year the company presents three pieces from their repertoire in addition to The Nutcracker. Now in their 15th season under Ron Cunningham’s and Carinne Binda’s Artistic Direction, the Sacramento Ballet continues to showcase the art and passion of dance. With their guidance 13 full-length ballets, 30 Sacramento premiers, 26 world premiers, and 16 Balanchine ballets have been added to the company’s diverse repertoire. This afternoon’s performance was no exception.
As I waited for the performance to begin, I surveyed the audience. Not every seat was packed, but there was a good turnout of people from every age group and race. Most seemed to be middle-class.
I was seated in the middle of the second tier balcony next to my two younger brothers. In the mad dash from the parking garage to the theater we forgot our binoculars, but it wasn’t a big deal. The Sacramento Community Center Theater is small enough to afford everyone a good view of the audience, yet grand enough to be a professional venue—even if you do have to sit in the nosebleed section.
There were four separate pieces in this program. The first was Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, which was also my favorite piece. I loved the complex, architectural formations the corps weaved across the stage complimented by the simple, white dance dresses they wore. The two women principals, Kirsten Bloom and Sarah Hinman, mirrored each other, at one point dancing hand-in-hand.
The second was Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, also choreographed by Balanchine. The music in this piece was so beautiful that it’s hard to believe it was lost from the final score of Swan Lake. This tender pas de deux made me think of Springtime and the wonder of new love. Richard Mardsen’s dancing in this piece was astounding. I could almost feel which movements would come next in his seemingly effortless fluidity of movement. I was less impressed with his partner, Whitney Simler, in this piece. The music seemed too slow to suite her style, as was indicated by her brilliant flourish of quick chaines at the end of her second solo.
The third and feature piece was Hamlet, an original work by Ron Cunningham, set to music by Dimitri Shostakovich and Shamou. The choreography was wonderfully tragic, as it had to depict different death scenes for each of the seven main characters. My seven-year-old brother thought the two-sworded fencing duel between Laertes and Hamlet was the most exciting part, but I found the drowning of Ophelia to be the most moving. Fog with green and blue lights shining through created a convincing pool of water. If only Polonius hadn’t have been killed by mistake, nobody else would have died.
In sharp contrast to the dramatic work proceeding it was the satirical Fluctuating Hemlines. This light-hearted piece was the only one to feature live music—mostly drums. The cast consisted of six women and six men competing to see which gender had the hottest moves. It was a high-energy abstract ballet with modern influences, as many of the pirouettes were done with a flexed foot. After I got over my initial shock and reserve, I really started to get into this piece. The dancers looked like they were having so much fun I couldn’t help but be drawn into it with them.

Did anyone else see this? What did you think?


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