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The Great Gatsby

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So what did you all think of this? I was glad to see that it was such a big hit for the company, although I agree with Sarah Kauffman that it was more of a feel-good ballet than emotionally deep. Not that there's anything wrong with just feeling good!

It was a big show with a live band, two singers, a tap-dancer, and full cast augmented from the Studio Company and the School. Lots of Jazz Age razzle-dazzle - that's the element of Fitzgerald's story that obviously inspired Webre. I liked his jazzy, hyper-kinetic steps, and loved watching the company execute them. Other Webre "trademarks" were in evidence too: the goofy slapstick, the pas-de-objects (sofas, tables), and a touching pas-de-romance between Jay Gatsby (Jared Nelson) and Daisy Buchanan (Laura Urgelles, in the perf. I saw; Elizabeth Gaither, in other perfs). Tom Buchanan (Louis R. Torres) was the most fully-developed character. In Fitzgerald he's just a smarmy rich playboy, but Torres and Webre turned him into a red-blooded mensch; poor Gatsby never had a chance. In Webre's imagining, Gatsby is a pure Lost Romantic; the perfect role for Nelson, but Webre's concept never lets us see the Donald-Trump-like-drive and crudity that propells Gatsby into his mansion. In Webre's version, the story's tragic denouement - where George kills Gatsby - is almost like an afterthought.

In the Sat. Mat. that I saw, Andile Ndlovu performed a star turn as George (danced by Brooklyn Mack in other perfs.). Flipping around and across the stage after Myrtle's death, his madness was as dramatically believable, and as impressive, as his technique. Equally impressive was Myrtle's (Sona Kharatian) amazing stand on top of half-a-dozen guys! She is over ten feet above the stage at that point, standing completely upright on a "platform" of the men's arms and shoulders, then sl-o-o-w-ly bends 180 degrees backwards to be sl-o-o-w-ly handled back to the floor; an amazing demonstration of choreographic genius, and of the dancers' skill and trust.

As for the structure of the ballet, Webre has done a great job of explicating Fitzgerald's complicated plot for the audience. In a way, he's done too good of a job. The cast of characters is taken over literally from the story, although many of them have no essential role here: Nick Caraway is doubled, as narrator and dancer; Jordan Baker appears only as someone for Dancer Nick to partner; and Pamela Buchanan isn't even a plot point. These characters are only literary devices, and do not belong in a dance adaptation. Nick Caraway's narration interrupted the flow of the ballet, and was downright intrusive. And the Louisville Flashback at the beginning of Act II was completely misplaced. It's the beginning of the story, and - in the dance version at least, to unblock the flow - should be the first scene of Act I!

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