Posted on Oct 13, 2013
4 out of 5
It has become something of a tradition for the KC Ballet to either open or close their season with a showcase of sorts, combining classics of dance with new and innovative performances, often originating from local talent. This year is no exception: the premiere performance for the 2013-2014 season balances works by such 20th-century luminaries as Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine with debut works from three choreographers with very different visions.
The opening is "Fancy Free", the wonderful Robbins/Bernstein collaboration that follows three sailors on shore leave in New York City (this being Bernstein, could it be anywhere else?) The three (played on this night by Logan Pachciarz, Josh Spell, and Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye) wander into and around a bar where they try to attract the attention of various ladies (Nadia Iozzo, Jill Marlow, and Aisling Hill-Connor). The lads strut, prance, and drink their way through the evening, showing off at every opportunity to impress the women. Bernstein's score is marvelous, of course (and contains hints of his future works "West Side Story" and the Hitchcock movie "Rear Window"). The dancing is light, and extremely skilful. The performers are not only technically adept, but ably "in character" throughout the piece. Special mention must be made of Oliver Smith's set design, which feels a bit like Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" on an expressionist kick. Very nicely done.
Next up was "Triple Play", in which Molly Wagner and Logan Pachciarz danced a melodic pas-de-deux while Sam Beckett played a beautiful rendering of Francis Poulenc's "Trois Novelettes for Solo Piano". A very simple number, but all the more graceful for it. Jodie Gates' "Keep Me Wishing in the Dark" takes Bach into an abstract world where colors and dance styles whorl and collide. At times the piece feels formal, almost ritual, only to explode into a sensual passage. This is a very demanding piece, and fascinating to watch.
Two very different pieces follow: the first is Balanchine's "Allegro Brilliante", based on the works of Tchaikovsky. A very formal and yet vigorous piece with some very impressive pointe work. Narrative as such being jettisoned in favor of technique, it is perhaps more a showcase for dancers than the casual audience member; I fear some audience members around me appeared to grow restive as the performance went on. Devon Carney's "Opus 1" is an interesting piece: the first one the company's new Artistic Director has created for this company. It is a good match: a lighter piece but full of interest and showing off the company's skills to great effect. It is to be hoped that this will be but the first of many such creations as director and company grow together in their abilities over what we hope will be many years to come.
So begins the new season. As always a blend of old and new, and a great deal of excitement laid on for the rest of the year. Between the old standbys (namely, the annual production of "The Nutcracker") and some exciting newer shows (March's "Dracula"), this promises to be a very enjoyable season indeed.