Natalia Ashikhmina from Fokine’s The Dying Swan.
Photo courtesy of Louisville Ballet.
Review by Valerie Canon
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Valerie Canon. All rights reserved
Louisville Ballet is currently presenting twelve excerpts from its repertoire each staged individually by former artistic directors Alun Jones, Helen Starr, Bruce Simpson, and current Ballet Mistress Mikelle Bruzina.Entering the Main Street studio home of the ballet gave the impression of being in a repository of dance history. Set pieces and costumes of ballets past filled the studio, while the walls were adorned with photos of former dancers, past advertising, and a slide projection with more stills of previous performances. The entire effect was engaging and entrancing: a perfect setting for an evening of reflection in preparation for Louisville Ballet’s upcoming 65th anniversary season.
Artistic Director Robert Curran welcomed the audience warmly and introduced each piece of the evening with a bit of the work’s history and connection to the company. He was delightfully charming and eloquent. The choice to remain on stage during each piece was a very bold move as it could have pulled attention from the performers, but instead allowed the audience the rare opportunity to share the performance with its visionary, adding to the intimacy of the evening.
The evening began with the very first piece performed by the company in 1962, The Dying Swan, by Andre Prokovsky. Wednesday night, dancer Natalia Ashikhmina did the classic justice. Its haunting music and her waifish figure floating across the floor kept the audience entranced until the final fingertip fell; a strong beginning to a most excellent evening of ballet.
Anthony Tudor’s Judgment of Paris is not commonly seen. Jordan Martin, Kateryna Sellers, and Christy Corbitt Miller portrayed bedraggled female entertainers in awkward costumes in a dive bar. The three attempt an amusing (though intentionally poor) competition for the attention of patron Eduard Forehand. A surprise ending, fabulous acting, and character dancing made the piece fun to watch. Lambarena by choreographer Val Caniparoli is a Louisville favorite: Erica De La O and Justin Michael Hogan performed the African dance and ballet fusion excerpt. The couple complemented each other nicely and partnered beautifully. George Balanchine’s Square Dance was included in Louisville Ballet’s 2014-2015 season. This evening’s performance, which included last season’s soloists Kateryna Seller and Brandon Ragland, was cleaner and more stylized than last year’s performance and gives great confidence in the company’s season closer (a night of Balanchine’s works).
Soliloquy from Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid was dedicated to the former dancers of the ballet who are no longer with us; a touching dedication of a magnificent work that captures the essence of the American West and Americana itself. It was a brief, compelling glimpse of a piece that would have a welcome resurrection from the ballet’s repertoire catacombs. Closing the first act was Marius Petipa’s Act III Pas de Deux from Don Quixote. Erica De La O and Benjamin Wetzel performed the piece with great strength. Erica flourished in the role of the sassy-but-sweet Kitri, as if the part were made for her.
The second act began with the Act II, Pas de Six from Anna Karenina by Andre Prokovsky. The interweaving patterns and dancers gracefully moving in canon amid soft lighting moved the audience in the second half of the evening. It should be mentioned that Mark Krieger is a standout performer, with gentleness in his exquisite performance and a partnering with Christy Corbett Miller that draws the audience’s eye. Alun Jones’ Trojan Women is a gut-wrenching look at the effect of war from a woman ‘s perspective, as told in the play by Euripides. Dancer Helen Daigle brilliantly portrayed the role of Hecuba, originated by the renowned dancer and former Louisville Ballet Mistress. It was a pleasure to watch the dramatic portrayal of a mother’s mourning of her dead child and Ms. Daigle was able to so ensnare the audience that one could cut the tension in the air with a knife.
Mikelle Brunzina’s Gloria is a fun and sparkling piece that originally emerged from the ballet’s Choreographer’s Showcase. The work featured Rob Marrow with and ensemble of company dancers. It lightened the air and brought smiles to the audience faces with its playfulness and joy. It would be a thrill to see this piece make it back into the main stage season. Emily Reinking O’Dell performed the Act III, Dance of the Russian Princess from Bruce Simpson’s Swan Lake. Emily, while stoic, maintained a glimmer in her eye of zeal and presented tenderness that only a true princess would present. Roger Creel, Christy Corbett Miller, and Ryan Stokes lovingly and touchingly performed the Second Song of Ben Stevenson’s Four Last Songs with great strength. The dancers gave all the elegance and beauty to the ballet that Ben Stevenson’s choreography is known for. Closing the evening brought all the dancers back to the stage with the Act III Finale of Alun Jones’ The Merry Widow. With grandiose costumes and sweeping, full waltzing, the evening was brought to a magnificent close.
An in-studio performance allows the audience an opportunity to interact with dancers with an untouched intimacy not often allotted in the art. The Studio Connection performance showed the great strength of an incredibly talented and diverse company with the venerability of close proximity in their own home. The evening was truly magical and a pleasure to partake in. This is a performance not to be missed! Bravo to Louisville Ballet!
January 27 – 30, 2016
315 East Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
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 Unhindered and Ungendered: A Killer Show, for Wayward Actors Company in January 2016.