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Carolina Ballet's Balanchine Masterworks

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Haven't seen a post about this company, although I haven't combed the archives either. i was traveling this weekend and was delighted to see four performances (with different casts) of two terrific mostly-Balanchine programs--

Program I: Square Dance, Symposium, Who Cares?

Margaret Severin-Hansen, who danced nearly every leading ballerina role in these programs, was excellent in Square Dance; her delicacy and finesse in epaulement occasionally resemble Kay Mazzo's, but her verve resembles nobody's: the coupe jete entrance was the most brilliant I have seen. Pablo Javier Perez, also small and slender, partners her well (they were also seen together in Tarantella, of which more anon). the corps looked wonderful. this was an interesting hybrid with a dashing caller (old version} and the magnificent Sarabande which Balanchine added for Bart Cook in 1976. (new version, sans caller). Symposium, to the Bernstein Serenade for violin and orchestra, was an extended piece by company director Robert Weiss which used most of the principals and soloists in pas de deux, and featured Christopher Rudd in a large role as Dionysus. Who Cares?, with the same cast at both performances, had Severin-Hansen in the jumping role, Margot Martin in the turning role, and Lilyan Vigo in the McBride role, with Alain Molina as the principal male. Molina was injured and unable to dance his solo to ''Liza", alas; his partnering as well as his presence was handsome, stalwart, and debonair. Vigo, who also danced most of the ballerina roles, appeared slighly tentative in this one (she was better and more confident in the more difficult Donizetti Variations), perhaps because of its idiosyncratic demands and history of being a 'star' part. Severin-Hansen, a small dancer in a role made on Karin von Aroldingen, devoured the stage, looking about eight feet tall during Stairway to Paradise; and Martin, a strong, assured, and almost cocky dancer, danced her formidable variation to My One and Only with nonchalant glamour {great fouettes and turns in general}. this performance omitted, to my dismay, the finale to Clap Yo' Hands, which I believe is no longer done at NYCB either. what a shame.

Program Two: Concerto Barocco, Reflection (a Weiss pas de deux to the Tchaikovsky "Meditation"), either Tarantella or Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (at one performance we happily saw BOTH in turn), and Donizetti Variations....

Hong Yang, a recent arrival from China, and Heather Eberhardt danced Barocco, with Dameon Nagel as Hong's partner. everyone danced well in this ballet, both in this performance and in the cast which featured Severin-Hansen and Martin with Molina, but the corps was especially ravishing and fluid in their passages with the principals. Reflection was made for Melissa Podcasy, long a star of Pennsylvania Ballet, and her partner Timour Bourtasenkov; it was very hard to put out of mind the choreography of Balanchine for Farrell, but Podcasy and Bourtasenkov danced well and expressively. Tarantella alternated Severin-Hansen and Perez with Martin and Rudd; both women were wonderful, with Severin-Hansen dancing with tremendous vivacity and finish to her footwork . the men looked less at ease in Villella's bravura steps (the speed of the transitions, as well as the difficulty of jumping high with absolutely no preparation time) but both couples carried it off. the friend with whom I saw this performance said astutely that Severin-Hansen and Perez looked like street dancers, while Martin and Rudd looked like ballet dancers. I enjoyed both , especially Martin's bold and flirtatious approach (this is less the way McBride did it but extremely diverting to watch! ) Tchaik Pas had Vigo and Cyrille de la Barre, who danced a dazzling variation and was an experienced danseur-noble partner. Donizetti was danced by Vigo with de la Barre and Severin-Hansen with Gabor Kapin; both couples were good and the ensemble distinguished itself greatly, especially Lara O'Brien, who has an exquisite and languidly poised epaulement and a lovely smile in addition to considerable ease in her dancing. Kapin, a young, puppyish, gangly dancer, had lots of dash and enthusiasm, and was superb in his difficult a la seconde/passe turning sequence; the company, as everywhere in these programs, danced with relish and joie de vivre. Terry Teachout was present and spoke briefly and eloquently (his new Balanchine bio is just out). Hope this company will get more and more attention; it is richly deserving of praise.

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