Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Ballet Across America

Last night, I went to see Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center. If you're in town this weekend and looking for something to do, I highly recommend trying to get rush tickets or just treating yourself because, let's face it, you're worth it. And so is the show.

I saw Ballet Memphis, Ballet Arizona and Pacific Northwest Ballet perform.

Ballet Memphis was first with a piece called In Dreams that premiered in 2007. What I loved most about their performance and what made it arguably my favorite of the night, was that it made me feel like I was smack dab in the middle of Beale Street. The piece was set to music by Roy Orbison, Sam Phillips and Cindy Walker, giving the piece a true southern, Memphis feel. The choreography was very contemporary, even crossing the line into modern at times. But the dancers' movements perfectly mimicked the rhythm of the music and even the inflection of the vocalists. Another really effective element of In Dreams, which was about breaking up with a lover, was the dancers' upper bodies. When dancing alone, the dancers' upper bodies were stiff, erect and almost robot-like. But when the dancers embraced, one dancer would seem to melt, fall back and be supported by the other, losing the stiffness and independence of the earlier movements.

Ballet Arizona's piece Diversions had extremely dramatic music, coloring and movements. Although the dancers were well-trained (talk about some leggy ballerinas!), I was admittedly disappointed with Ballet Arizona's performance. A difficulty of performing with other companies is that the audience has a point of reference. Unfortunately, Ballet Arizona seemed sloppy at times when compared to the other companies. The music in Diversions was very stop-and-go and jarring so it stood out when a dancer was off the music or not in unison with the rest of the corps. Additionally, the piece featured 20 dancers and half the time I did not know where I was supposed to look. I feel like I missed a number of awesome moments because there were so many different things happening on stage and no focal point. However, the piece did have very intricate lifts and it was fun to watch the male dancers move the ballerinas through the air as if they were weightless. The absolute highlight of Ballet Arizona's performance was a pas de deux by Tzu-Chia Huang and Russell Clark. Huang and Clark were the only two people on stage (no distractions!) and the dark lighting and emotional partnering made for an incredibly special moment. They ended hugging in a spotlight and someone behind me actually gasped.

Pacific Northwest Ballet closed out the evening with a piece called 3 Movements, choreographed in 2008 by New York City Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Millepied. Although this piece had a corps of 16 dancers, they were together, their lines were straight and they had very fluid movements. 3 Movements was monochromatic- everyone was wearing gray, white or black. However, what the piece was lacking in color was made up for by sassy choreography. Millepied incorporated the grapevine, cha cha, and other ballroom dance movements into the choreography. The near-constant movement reminded me of a bustling city street. And the costumes contributed to this effect as well. The men were wearing suit pants, button downs and skinny ties and the women all looked like they had stepped out of an American Apparel catalogue. In fact, I'm pretty sure one of the dancers was actually wearing this.


  1. Hey Marcia, cool blog! I'm set to see the Sunday matinee with Joffrey, Aspen Santa Fe, and Tulsa ballets. Hope it's as enjoyable as the program you saw!

  2. Ah! I saw this program, too! Totally agree with you on Ballet Arizona. I couldn't get pass those distracting costumes! The last time I saw a dazzly scrunchy on stage was on a 9 year old girl.

    I was floored by Millepied's piece. Wow! I didn't want it to end - I was so captivated. It was pedestrian, but still haute. Loved, loved, loved it!