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Birdsall

Orlando Ballet's Firebird and To Familiar Spaces in Dream

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Birdsall   

Last night I drove down to Orlando for dinner with a friend and Orlando Ballet's Firebird and To Familiar Spaces in Dream.

If anyone read my review of last season's Swan Lake, you know I was disheartened. Well, after that total disaster (in my personal opinion....mainly for artistic choices, not for the decent dancing) I wasn't going to ever go back. But a friend, who had never seen ballet, wanted to see one, and Orlando Ballet had advertised on its website in the late spring and summer that all shows would have a live orchestra this season.

I thought, "Let me give them another try...." I thought if worse came to worse hearing Stravinsky's score by a live orchestra would be fine. However, on Thursday I read an article that said Firebird would be danced to a recording. I went back to the website and saw that the "with live orchestra" advertisement was now gone. Apparently, funding or relationship with the orchestra fell apart.

But tickets already bought. Friend wanted to go. So off I went after work. I thought, "This might be a waste of my time."

The first ballet was Jessica Lang's To Familiar Spces in Dream. The dancers wore all white. The sets consisted of white rectangular columns (keys of a piano, according to the notes) which were moved in many different patterns by the dancers as they dance over, on, under, around them, etc. I interpreted this to mean that human lives help to shape music and vice versa. The liner notes said that we were supposed to interpret it however we want. It was actually a nice ballet (about 25 minutes). It is not my favorite cup of tea (modern), but as far as modern ballets go it was a pleasant experience. My ballet novice friend was less enthusiastic. I thought the dancers were very impressive in this modern piece. I do not crave to see this piece again but would not be upset if I went to see a mixed bill and this was included.

The second and final ballet of the evening was Firebird. The lack of an actual orchestra was disappointing, but when the curtain went up and the backdrops and costumes were very nice (fairly traditional) I thought, "Okay, I can enjoy this even with new choreography and lack of live music." Robert Hill (who I blamed for the Swan Lake disaster) stuck to the ballet vocabulary and created a nice, new version that brought the audience to its feet. My ballet novice friend loved it. He said it moved faster and was more colorful. I suspect he liked it also because it had a story to it.

Chiaki Yasukawa's Firebird was full of mystery and did a great job (as she did with Odette/Odile last season). My only quibble would be that her grand jetes are not very grand. But that could just be me due to being used to the Mariinsky dancers doing complete splits during grand jetes. She was totally in character and technically fine.

Arcadian Broad was pretty amazing in many of his moments doing all the famous male moves (if I remember correctly) like barrel turns, grand fouette sautes, and revoltades......he is a local favorite with a great technique and supposedly starting to choreograph also.

Anyway, this little regional company is impressive for its actual dancing when it is given the right works to dance.

I actually enjoyed it very much and was glad that I gave the company another try. It makes me think that I MIGHT go to their Don Quixote in March if the novice ballet friend wants to go.....last night gave me hope. On the other hand, a full-length 19th century classic (like Swan Lake last season) is hard to pull off when the company is small......but I feel DQ is less about beauty and that fainting couch moment (so beautiful you think you might faint) and a little more about fireworks than Swan Lake, so maybe since the dancers are often up to the actual dancing I might go.

Anyway, relieved and happy I can give a positive review. I hate to knock down a small, struggling company. I wrote last season's review with a heavy heart. But today I feel like I saw a very decent group of dancers give their all and create art that was pleasing.

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sandik   

I'm interested in your description of the Lang -- we just saw her solo The Calling here last fall -- it's a signature piece for her, but a very unique work. I couldn't really see how it would translate into a style. When I talked with her about a year ago, she was just starting on a commission that has to do with architecture -- perhaps this work you saw came from that experience.

I think we've all seen multiple versions of Firebird -- while we still have productions of the original choreography, it's one of those scores where many people feel like they can make their own variation.

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I think we've all seen multiple versions of Firebird -- while we still have productions of the original choreography, it's one of those scores where many people feel like they can make their own variation.

ABT's didn't work for me.

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