Natalia Ashikhmina & Mark Krieger in Sanjay Saverimuttu’s Sunrise. Photo by Sam English.
Review by Valerie Canon
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Valerie Canon. All rights reserved.
The evening opened with a short introduction by Artistic Director Robert Curran, who explained how the showcase program has evolved over the years. The program now requires choreographers to submit applications, research their work, and provide a layout of their process. He mentioned that this was a way to assist the artists in building their process and art form through experimentation. This year’s showcase had a theme to reflect the Ballet’s 65th anniversary season: Narrative. Each ballet was expected to have some form of narrative intended to, as Mr. Curran said, “lay the groundwork for possible future classics.”
Roger Creel choreographed the opening piece, titled “Know”. It was meant to reflect what happens when a woman chooses among her lovers, and the story was presented very abstractly. The narrative was muddy and the choreography was lacking. The partnering sections seemed overly complicated, and due to that, clumsily performed. There was a section that consisted only of ladies doing port de bras that was tedious. The entirety of the piece was lackluster, though the dancers did execute the work fairly well.
“The Heart of Light, The Silence,” choreographed by Justin Michael Hogan, came next. The narrative consisted of experiences in and of community. This piece had the best overall use of music, dancing, lighting, and costuming, with music that incorporated spoken-word excerpts from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. The dancers were clad in shades of gray, black, and white. The lighting shifted between scenes. The movement in this piece was lovely, but it also had standout acting from the likes of Ashley Thursby Kern, Mark Krieger, and Rob Morrow. It would have without a concrete narrative. George Balanchine’s Serenade is without a concrete narrative leaving the audience free to create one. Hogan’s work here was solid enough to have done the same.
After a short intermission, “Sunrise,” choreographed by Sanjay Saverimuttu, took the stage. The story is that of the choreographer’s parents and the start of a young family that took place during their immigration to the United States from Sri Lanka. Loaded with symbolism, this piece had the clearest narrative of the evening. The journey was disappointing in that the Sri Lankan culture was not more meaningfully represented in costuming and music selection. Though the choreography was unremarkable it was cleanly performed. Mr. Saverimuttu, with further encouragement and refinement, has the potential of building a classic narrative ballet based on his family history, if he will step outside of the classical box and fully embrace his heritage.
(Note from the reviewer added after the initial publication of this commentary: “After reaching out to Sanjay Saverimuttu, I believe I misunderstood the focus of his piece, and I regret if my original comments came off as culturally insensitive.”)
The final dance was choreographed by former Louisville Ballet dancer, Ben Needham-Wood, and was entitled, “Run for the Roses”. The work was created to show the relation between two Louisville natives, Emily Reinking O’Dell and Ryan Stokes, and the celebrated horses of the Kentucky Derby. The dancers told the stories, which were combined into multiple music selections. The tales were endearing, especially, to those who know the dancers personally. The choreography, costuming, and lighting felt balanced with the narrative, but the piece overall felt contrived. There were fine moments of dancing by all, as the choreography was smart, but there was too much push to compare the dancers to horses and it almost felt as though it was a choreographed commercial for Louisville Ballet.
This year’s showcase causes one to consider the idea of narrative and the difficulty of conveying a story using only the body, music, and a bit of spoken word. No easy task, but valiantly attempted by the four choreographers.
January 24 – 28, 2017
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 2017: Once Upon A Spinning Wheel, for Wayward Actors Company in January 2017.