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Balanchine Celebration October 10

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Carolina Ballet's "Balanchine Celebration" offers five contrasting works- so between the purity of Apollo and the Broadway inspired "Who Cares?" there is something for everyone to enjoy.

For me, the most enjoyable parts of the evening came from the two ballets I least expected to appreciate. "Tarantella" has never really been a favorite of mine- until this performance. Margaret Severin-Hansen probably danced the best Tarantella I have ever seen. From her first entrance where she seemed to jump higher than her partner, Pablo Perez, to the very last exit, her energy never faltered. More than the energy she displayed, though, I believe it was her sheer joy of dancing combined with technical precision as well as a dynamic, warm stage presence that won me over. She shared a true rapport with her partner, so that their moments together onstage seemed to be a conversation. Perez also danced well, but the truth if the matter was that I couldn't take my eyes off of Severin-Hansen.

My next surprise favorite was Valse Fantasie, and once again, it was the dancers who drew me in to the choreographic and artistic details. Jan Burkhard and Richard Krusch ate up the space, shared a rapport with each other and had the technique to tackle this deceptively difficult piece. Burkhard was just lovely- lyrical, sweeping, plush, musical with a wonderfully airborne jump. Krusch appealed to me more than he has in the past- he proved himself to be more than just another man with beautiful legs. The four women were also wonderful- the energy with which they flew across the floor sparkled.

As for the other works on the program.... Apollo looked to be a different ballet from the one I have enjoyed so much in the past. The dancers danced well enough, but I felt that an understanding of the story-telling details was missing. The shapes that distinguish the personalities of the different muses seemed blurred- Calliope could just as easily have been Terpsichore. It seemed that the dancers went from one picture to the next without really connecting each moment, so the ballet became exactly that- a series of beautiful moments reminiscent of a slide show rather than the powerful narrative that I have seen before.

Agon pas de deux was also well-danced, but once again seemed to be a series of moments. In some ways, I felt as if the dancers were trying too hard to convey the character of this pas de deux through their faces as well as in the overemphasis of particular musical cues. The choreography in this pas de deux speaks for itself, so adding to the edginess with hardened stares into the audience actually detracts from the structure and intent of the choreography. I also missed how the music is reflected in the shape of the steps and the movement.... during the short male solo, there is a point when the man performs a series of turned-in "pas de chats"- it can come across as being as percussive as the music is at that point, but here those wonderful little steps were blurred, and therefore lost some of their impact. And finally, some of the physical tension between the man and the woman was missing. In the last few moments of the pas de deux, the man takes the woman's leg in his hand, and then releases her leg and slides down to lie on the floor while holding onto her hand and she descends into a huge penchee arabesque. I have seen this performed where his descent to the floor is unmistakable reason for her penchee- a true cause and effect relationship, but here he seemed to simply be partnering her as she arrived at another "moment," albeit a beautiful moment.

Who Cares? closed the program. It was a little strange to see Who Cares? without the corps of ten girls. This looked like an expanded version of the concert version which features the principal solo and pas de deuxs. It is hard not to like Who Cares?, though, with it's wonderful score and accessible dancing. The five couples were wonderful- the men were particularly nice in "Bidin' my Time." Margaret Severin-Hansen continued to hit the high notes in "Man I Love," - a full-bodied, articulate interpretation. Gabor Kapin was very nice, as well, when it came to his solo. The best part of Who Cares? came from the pit- live music. It was not a full orchestra by any means- rather just three instruments (piano, percussion and a string instrument- a bass cello, perhaps?)- but these three provided all the ambience needed to round out this Balanchine Celebration.

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I'm delighted to read this, leibling; I was unaware of the program until just a couple of days ago - just not paying attention - and hoping to get to the last weekend. Now I have your acute preview; but exactly which performance(s) did you see?

I've seen Severin-Hansen, and I would expect her to eat up her part, just as you said; she did another McBride role - Rubies woman - here, with Ballet Chicago, too.

And turning Apollo into a series of pictures - now we do this, and then we go over here, and then we do that - without proper flow-through happens all too easily.

We lately got an abbreviated Who Cares? as well - no quick duets, just the opening "Strike Up the Band" and "Sweet and Low Down" and then right into "The Man I Love," from BC. (I think Carolina Ballet's plan might look a little better.)

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leibling, I'm so glad you said that about Severin-Hansen. She is a prodigious and stellar dancer, on par with anyone at a 'big company' and in fact more dazzling and accomplished than most 'famous' ballerinas. I have never seen a better Tarantella than hers (although sadly of course I did not see McBride), and if you liked Burkhard in Valse you would have expired at Severin-Hansen in the role--the circle of pas couru/grand jetes was transporting. She almost appeared to get higher AS she was descending , for a nanosecond. I think you would have adored her as Terpsichore as well--the opening night cast of Apollo was not as good as the second night cast. I'd have liked to have seen Severin-Hansen as Polyhymnia and in the Morris ('turning') role in Who Cares?, as neither of these parts is usually filled by a dancer completely up to the task, but she was great in the 'leading roles' of both ballets as well. the 'swimming lesson' at the end of the Apollo pdd was memorable.

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