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Columbia Ballet Collaborative

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Ballet alert! The Columbia Ballet Collaborative -- featuring current and former professional dancers who are students at Columbia University -- made an impressive debut Friday night, with a program of works in progress.

The venue was a small dance studio at Barnard College, packed to the walls with students, faculty and assorted balletomanes. The choreography ranged from a happily kinetic romp by Emily Hayden to music by Moby, to an arresting piece of yogic sculpture by Lydia Walker and Philip Askew, titled "Aristophanes' Dream." This is based on Plato's "Symposium," where Aristophanes opines that originally people were formed in pairs, and love consists of trying to reunite with one's lost other half. Walker and Askew, locked in bilateral symmetry, go through a series of slow-motion somersaults and four-legged strolls, timed to the solemn cadence of a Bach organ chorale. It's a bizarre take on a serious theme, and was a riveting performance.

The main piece on the menu consisted of excerpts from "Moon Roses," a classical ballet by Bonnie Scheibman to an astringent, quirky piano piece by Bruce Novack. Of the many attempts I've seen to meld classical steps with modern music, this was one of the more palatable, largely due to the definitive dancing of the two lead women, Walker and Victoria North. North in particular was able to soften the jarring aspect of the music with fluid, classical lines. At the same time, she had the explosive attack needed for the jumpy score. North, who has danced with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, is tall and imposing, warm and inviting, and articulate down to the fingernails. August Pozgay added strength as he partnered both women.

This was far more than what you might expect for a first performance from a fledgling, pick-up troupe. Keep your eyes open for more next spring from the Columbia Ballet Collaborative.

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I am thrilled to hear this news! Wow. This is a solid, smart and talented group of dancers of which quite a few have had strong pro careers before arriving at Columbia university. Glad to hear that the studio "was packed to the walls". I was told by one of the members that there will be a more formal performance in the coming spring.

Keep us posted, Flipsy.

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