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BALLET S.J. “NEOCLASSICAL TO NOW”
A Night of Variety

By Iride Aparicio

Pictures Courtesy of Ballet San José

The last movement of  SERENADE
The last movement of  SERENADE

SAN JOSÉ, CA – “Neoclassical to Now,” the BALLET SAN JOSÉ program performed on February 14, 15, & 16,  at the Center for the Performing arts, presented three different styles of dancing: Classical ballet, Neoclassical and Avant garde.

In a talk,  prior to the evening performance on Valentine’s day,  DARLA HOOVER, a “Repetiteur” (as the dancers trained to stage the BALANCHINE’s ballets are called by the GEORGE BALANCHINE TRUST, (l987) the association created to facilitate the licensing and preservation of his works) told the audience that Serenade, GEORGE BALANCHINE’s (1904-1963) signature ballet, was created in l934 and was his first choreography written upon his arrival in America.  That the ballet has no story because, according to BALANCHINE, a man and a woman were the story. She added that the rest of the ballet was created by events that happened to BALANCHINE’s during his classes, and that one of them was the story of the ballerina that falls down as he dances, which was integrated in Serenade the ballet,  to give the work some drama.

At the same talk, OHAD NAHARIN, from Israel, who choreographed  Minus 16,  told the audience that because her dance, is based on feeling,  
she asks each dancer to allow their bodies to express them. She said that when she began training them she told them:   “Let go of everything you have ever learned in dancing schools before and start all over again.” 

Minus 16 coreographed by OHAD NAHARIN
                    Minus 16 choreographed by OHAD NAHARIN 

Serenade, the first dance in the program, was choreographed by GEORGE BALANCHINE (l904-l983) the former director of  THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET, the school he cofounded, on October 11, l948. His ballet, got its name from PETER ILYCH  TCHAIKOVSKY’s  Serenade in C major for Strings and Orchestra, the music it dances to.

Serenade has no story, but BALANCHINE managed to convey to the audience a subtle tale in his choreography: gestures, movements, combinations and composition. If one analizes  Serenade the ballet, one discovers that the four movements of  TCHAIKOVSKY’s  music, match the four emotions hypothetically experienced that are represented on stage  by the BALANCHINE’s dancers.

In the  “Andante” Movement of  Serenade the ballet, for instance, the dance marks  the walk-like rhythm of the music as a group of girls, inside a dance studio, represent to be learning how to dance ballet.  At curtain, they are standing, in “first position.” (Straight legs with both their feet and toes pointing out) in rows doing arm exercises, exactly on the beat, perfectly synchronized.

On opening night, This Movement, the first in the ballet, was danced by BSJ principal dancers: AMY MARIE BRIONES, ALEXSANDRA MEIJER, OMMI PIPIT- SUKSUN, RUDY CANDIA Y NATHAN CHANEY. Dancing the third movement were: CINDY HUANG, JUNNA IGE, SARAH STEIN and ALISON STROMING. Other  dancers in the ballet were:
SHANNON BYNUM, MADELINE EDWARDS, EMMA FRANCIS, ELISE GILLUM, NICOLE LARSON, KATHRYIN MEEUSEN, BETH ANN NAMEY, MARIYA OISHI, CAREY PEREIRA, GRACE-ANNE POWERS, CYNTHIA SHEPPARD, LAHNA VANDEBUSH AND JING ZHANG.

The male dancers were: THOMAS BAKER, LUCIUS KIRST, ALEX KRAMER, and IHOSVANY RODRIGUEZ  

Two visual "figures" in the work needed mention: The first one was formed by the a boy  as he stands watching the the fallen girl laying on the floor. When a second girl stands behind him with both her arms extended, it formed a figure of an angel with extended wings. The second "figure" was superb. and it was formed when “the fallen” girl now stands up, held only her ankles, over the heads of the group of dancers.

As a ballet, Serenade was danced with mastery, smoothly and perfectly synchronized. The choreography was so entrancing to look at, that made the dance, a work of art.

Glow Stop choreographed by JORMA ELO with the music of the fourth movement of  Symphony No. 29 in C, by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART  and the 2nd movement of the Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by PHILIP GLASS, was a fast ballet and because of it, a difficult one. The dancers  included: AMY MARIE BRIONES, CINDY HUANG  ALEXSANDRA MEIJER, OMMI PIPIT- SUKSUN, SARAH STEIN AND JING ZHANG. Male dancers:  DAMIR EMRIC, JAMES KOPECKY, JEREMY KOVITCH, JOSHUA SEIBEL, ALORA TAKAHSAHI, and KENDALL TEAGUE.

To dance a physical ballet in “Presto” rhythms with each one of its movements movements needs precision is not easy, specially when  the dancers have to jump, spun, flex, and do all their movents in rhythm. It is even more difficult to do with recorded music. This group of performers managed to do it on that night. demonstrating to the audience the mastery of the dancers of BALLET SAN JOSÉ.

Choreographed by OHAD NAHARIN, the last dance named  Minus 16  is indescribable in words.  It started with a solo dancer (a man) standing on the right of the stage staring at the audience with a blank look in his face. After a few minutes of doing nothing, he started moving, until he attracted the attention of the audience, who finally realized that this man (dressed in pants and shirt and wearing socks and no shoes) was part of the Minus 16  dance . Dancing solo, he sort of danced to the music of Over the Rainbow Played at a very fast tempo, and to the music of the Latin song Quien Sera. The stage began filling with men and women dressed like men, wearing black pants, white shirts, black coats, black hats and black walking shoes. All began dancing, on the stage, each onemoving in different ways

.  Dancers from MINUS 16
Dancers from MINUS 16

After a chaotic dance, they formed a semi-circle and sit down in chairs. The next minutes were tedious for the audience who had to watch them doing nothing as a middle Eastern style song that was repeated over and over again was sung in the background. Even more tedious was to watch one of these men sitting on a chair at the end of he row, fall face down from his chair, over an over and land on the stage floor. The routine ended with the men  undressing, tossing their coats, shirts, pants, hats and shoes on the middle of the stage. Now wearing only a
T-shirt and shorts, they began moving their bodies at the beat of a TICK TAC of a clock. Their next dance was  physical, acrobatic: crawling on the floor, bending over forwards and backward, snaking their bodies,contorting them, the type of dance we see done by circus acrobats.It must have felt svery unnatural to Ballet-trained dancers

Dancin on that night were:J

SHANNON BYNUM, CINDY HUANG, BETH ANN NAMEY, GRACE-ANNE POWERS, CYNTHIA SHEPPARD, SARAH STEIN, ALISON STROMING, LAHNA VANDERBUSH AND JING ZHANG, and male dancers THOMAS BAKER, DMIR EMRIC, JAMES KOPECKY, JEREMY KOVITCH, RAMON MORENO, FRANCISCO PRECIADO, IHOSVANY RODRIGUEZ, JOSHUA SEIBEL, AKIRA TAKAHASHI, and KENDALL TEAGUE.

The work ended after the dancers descended from the stage, selected a dance partner from those sitting in the audience and danced with them on the stage. The audience laughed, the usual reaction of  people who can’t think of anything better to do when surprised, and as expected,  at the end of the dance, they applauded. The question is, did they like it?  

 
 
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