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Colorado Ballet Tour de Force March 6-8, 2020

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The Colorado Ballet presented four performances of a lovely mixed bill last weekend. As professional dance criticism has essentially disappeared here, I wanted to take a little time to say something about the works chosen and the performances.

Cluedo: The world premiere of this ballet, based on the famous board game Clue, was Friday night, March 6. Choreographed by Julia Adam on this company, it was a dazzling hit. I confess I knew nothing about the choreographer, although she has been doing a lot of work for a lot of companies. As every company nowadays seems to be looking for female choreographers to highlight, I'd recommend her. Adam used a medley of music by a young composer, Cosmo Sheldrake, which I can only describe as funky, goofy, tongue-in-cheek, and great fun. The gorgeous costumes are by Christine Darch - formal wear for the men and beautiful flapper dresses for the women. Most importantly, the choreography was chock full of surprising, crystal-clear, fast-paced patterns, with distinctive motifs repeated throughout. Like the music, it is tongue-in-check, funky, and goofy, and the dancers seemed to be having great fun.

  • Christopher Moulton and Tracy Jones, as Mr. and Mrs. Boddy, both soloists, were a perfect match and a promising pair.
  • Leah McFadden, Fernanda Oliveira, Francesca Martoccio (as Scarlet, Peacock, White)  are corps members who each got to shine, shine, shine and show their best, both as comics and dancers.
  • Tyler Rhoads, Jeremy Studinski, Joshua Allenback (as Plum, Green, Mustard), also corps members, had well-deserved opportunities to show their stuff.

Feast of the Gods was choreographed by Edwaard Liang in 2009 to Respighi, invoking a band of touring gypsys, with six pairs of dancers. It is notable for risky overhead lifts and complicated, unexpected partnering; although that occasionally crosses slightly into gimmickry, it's usually imaginative and interesting. First cast featured Chandra Kuykendall (retiring at the end of this season) with Chris Moulton, who performed in all three ballets this weekend.  The other lead pair in that performance was Asuka Sasaki and Francisco Estevez; they were a great partnership in Don Quixote and Nutcracker, and I have high expectations for them in the coming years. Second cast brought the return of Yosvani Ramos (who seemed positively joyous to be back on stage after some long absences due to injury) with corps member Leah McFadden, a good match for this ballet. The other lead couple was Tracy Jones with Nicholas Pelletier; both are on the tall side and seemed a good pairing. Tracy always stands out with a riveting presence and full-out amplitude in everything she does.

Celts was choreographed by Lila York in 1996 for the Boston Ballet, set to traditional Irish Music. Several high-energy movements for a large ensemble let the dancers cut lose and included some dancers  from the Apprentices and Studio Company, a nice way for them to get serious stage experience.  Sean Omandam alternated with Kevin Gael Thomas as Green Man; their solos integrated complicated beats and turns into an Irish-feeling display of virtuosity that the audience loved. Lead couples from Feast returned: Sasaki and Estevez alternating with McFadden and Ramos as Red Couple. Kuykendall and Moulton alternating with Jones and Pelletier as Brown Couple. 

What a work-out for all the dancers. One more show to go in April!

A brief promo clip from Cluedo:

 

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Thank you for this review @California! As you said, dance criticism has dried up in Colorado, so it's nice to be able to hear your thoughts.

I was also unfamiliar with Julia Adam, but, as you mention, it looks like she's choreographed for San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater, Atlanta Ballet, Nashville Ballet and The Joffrey Ballet? And was a principal with San Francisco Ballet? I had no idea. I love female choreographers, but more than that I love theatrical choreographers who have a sense of humor (minimal and angsty is certainly in vogue in the Bay Area -- it's nice to see something different from someone who earned their stripes there). If you say the dancers looked like they were fun, I'm all in. Here's her bio for anyone who is curious. 

Not entirely related to this program, but Conversations on Dance recently released an interview with Gill Boggs, AD at Colorado Ballet. They talk about many things, but I was struck by how surprisingly candid he was when talking about taking the company over after Martin Fredmann was ousted.  Anyone who was following that story when it happened might be interested in listening.

 

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1 hour ago, Syzygy said:

Not entirely related to this program, but Conversations on Dance recently released an interview with Gill Boggs, AD at Colorado Ballet. They talk about many things, but I was struck by how surprisingly candid he was when talking about taking the company over after Martin Fredmann was ousted.  Anyone who was following that story when it happened might be interested in listening.

 

I did not retire to Denver until 2011 so I missed what I understand was a very difficult time financially and artistically. I have seen several of the ballets Gil talks about bringing in and loved them -- the Derek Deane R&J (which is gorgeous), T&V, the Tetley Sacre, eg. I'm really looking forward to In the Upper Room next month, which I know Gil danced frequently and in the original cast, if I remember correctly. People who live in huge metropolitan areas don't always appreciate how much great ballet there is in regional companies like Colorado. 

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On 3/9/2020 at 4:15 PM, California said:

Cluedo: The world premiere of this ballet, based on the famous board game Clue, was Friday night, March 6. Choreographed by Julia Adam on this company, it was a dazzling hit. I confess I knew nothing about the choreographer, although she has been doing a lot of work for a lot of companies. As every company nowadays seems to be looking for female choreographers to highlight, I'd recommend her. Adam used a medley of music by a young composer, Cosmo Sheldrake, which I can only describe as funky, goofy, tongue-in-cheek, and great fun. The gorgeous costumes are by Christine Darch - formal wear for the men and beautiful flapper dresses for the women. Most importantly, the choreography was chock full of surprising, crystal-clear, fast-paced patterns, with distinctive motifs repeated throughout. Like the music, it is tongue-in-check, funky, and goofy, and the dancers seemed to be having great fun.

I saw some of Adams' work early in her choreographic career and liked it a great deal -- I thought she was working with the vocabulary in a smart way.  And Sheldrake is indeed big fun!

9 hours ago, California said:

 I'm really looking forward to In the Upper Room next month, which I know Gil danced frequently and in the original cast, if I remember correctly.

I love this work -- I'll be curious to hear what you have to say.

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4 hours ago, sandik said:

I love this work -- I'll be curious to hear what you have to say.

I have seen ABT do Upper Room dozens of times over the years and it never grows old. Knowing the Colorado Ballet dancers and coaches, I'm optimistic they will do a fabulous job. My worry now is cancellation due to this awful pandemic. Colorado has a few cases, but we also have a very pro-active governor who has been out front on these issues, so I will hope for the best.

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Even if your community closed off public events tomorrow, it sounds like CB got more performances of this rep than SFB did!

I think Upper Room is quintessential Tharp does ballet -- kinesthetically thrilling and intellectually challenging.  Always glad to see it, and to hear that others get the chance as well.

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