Photo – Sam English
Director’s Choice: A New World
Review by Valerie Canon
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Valerie Canon. All rights reserved.
Last weekend Louisville Ballet closed their season with a collection of works chosen by its new director, Robert Curran. Suite en Blanc, choreographed by Serge Lifar; Square Dance choreographed by George Balanchine; and What Light Is to Our Eyes choreographed by Lucas Jervies.
Suite en Blanc opened the evening. The curtain opened on a beautiful tableau of company dancers and guest artists. It set the start of what was a well-executed and lovely classically styled ballet. The choreography through the piece was traditional, but had a bit of twist in that the directions the dancers faced, and the direction changes within the steps themselves, were unusual. This was almost certainly an extraordinary challenge for the dancers, who nonetheless handled it wonderfully. The Pas de Troi was nicely performed by Emily Reinking O’Dell, Ryan Stokes, and Phillip Velinov. Kateryna Sellers was a stand out in Pas de Cinque. Sellers was flanked by Justin Michael Hogan, Rob Marrow, Roger Creel, and Benjamin Wetzel, whose ballon left the audience with the impression that they never touched the ground. Natala Ashikhmina was the quintessential ballerina, showing great control of movement in La Cigarette. Ashikhmina was beautifully paired with Mark Krieger in the flawless and stunning Pas de Deux. Erica De La O was pure perfection in Flute. This is one of Louisville’s strongest performances of the corps de ballet in recent memory. Overall, the piece was an excellent display of talent.
The second ballet of the show was George Balanchine’s Square Dance. Local artist Letitia Quesenberry created, with permission of the Balanchine Trust, a beautiful piece of art that provided the only set for the ballet. The art itself was stunning, but fell flat as a background. The original set gave the impression of the Great Plains, and was better suited to the piece (but maybe this is just the author’s Oklahoma heart looking for a reflection of home). The costumes were slightly reimagined from the originals by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. While added pink stripes were a nice reflection of the artwork, they distracted from the intensity of the choreography.
While the company brought a fresh interpretation to the production, the author wishes they had added back the original productions use of a square dance caller. However, when the ballet was revived in 1976, the caller was eliminated. So this absence is understood.
Nonetheless, Kateryna Sellers and Brandon Ragland were an excellent pairing as the principals in this piece. They are both very strong and charismatic performers, although Mr. Ragland could have been a little softer in his solo variation. The stylization that is very specific to Balanchine’s choreography was lacking, but I believe this is due to the recent introduction of this specific style to the Louisville Ballet. This should be remedied as the Ballet presents more of Balanchine’s work next season. The piece was well performed, but lacked overall in comparison to the other two.
What Light Is to Our Eyes closed the evening’s performance, and was the strongest piece of the night. The curtain was raised during the final intermission to reveal a bare stage. Dancers entered to warm up in full view of the audience. It was a terrific glimpse into the backstage world of the performers. Louisville Ballet excels at contemporary work, and this one did not disappoint. Erica De La O moved like liquid. Katrina Sellers and Kristopher Wojtera had a beautiful partnered section. All the dancers were at the top of their game in this piece. Benjamin Wetzel was a stand out, executing stunning solos throughout. The ballet had a continual flow that allowed each of the ten dancers a moment to shine. There were several nods to George Balanchine’s Serenade, which were creatively incorporated into this modern work. The lighting design, by Michael T. Ford, was absolutely breathtaking. If this is representative of choreographer Lucas Jervies’ body of work, there is certainly call for more of it to be displayed by the Louisville Ballet.
Louisville Ballet closed its season with an excellent performance, no doubt leaving the Louisville audience looking forward to what next season holds.
Director’s Choice: A New World
April 10-11, 2015
W.L. Lyons Brown Theater
315 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Valerie Canon is an actor, director, dancer, model, and choreographer based in the Greater Louisville area. Mrs. Canon received her BFA in ballet performance from Oklahoma University in 2004, and has performed in ballets around the country as a principal, soloist, and corps de ballet member. She recently directed Broadway’s Greatest Love Songs: Unhindered and Ungendered, which premiered at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in January 2015. [/box_light]