Erica De La O & Bruce Simpson. Photo: Sam English
The Merry Widow
Choreography by Ronald Hynd
Music by Franz Lehár’
A review by Valerie Canon
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Valerie Canon. All rights reserved
Louisville Ballet’s production of The Merry Widow was an absolute delight. This was a new work for the company and they provided a strong showing. The choreographer, Ronald Hynd’s use of a polonaise, czardas, polka, and can-can among other styles of dance was a feast for the senses. The dancers had an opportunity to enjoy so many styles of dance wrapped up into one ballet. The choreography flowed so seamlessly that the evening flew by! It was elegant and grand, lighthearted and fun.
The opening scene sets the tone for the evening. It begins with three officials completing their daily work. The dancers very clearly conveyed the condition of the country, which was bankruptcy. It was apparent at this moment that one did not need to read the program notes to follow the storyline. The choreography and performances made the plot clear, which is not always the case in ballets.
A little context for those who are not familiar with the story and were not able to see Louisville Ballet’s Performance. A wealthy widow from a small poverty-stricken providence of Pontevedro is attending a ball seeking a new husband. The Baron wants to ensure that the widow marries a Pontevedrian in order to keep her wealth in the country and therefore save the country from ruin. Also, the Baron’s French wife is having an affair with the French Attaché. Hijinks ensue
Enter The Ambassador and his wife. Guest Artist Bruce Simpson (former Artistic Director of the Louisville Ballet) was an absolute pleasure to behold on stage as the Ambassador. He showed true mastery of the craft in the simplest of movements. A flip of the hand, a turn of the head, a tendu, were all done with the grace of a man who has spent his entire life immersed in the art of dance. It was hard to take your eyes away from him as he dominated scenes. It was truly a beautiful thing to behold. His pairing with Senior Ballet Master, Harald Uwe Kern (who also has a dominating stage presence) as the Ambassador’s Secretary created some of the most humorous moments of the evening. It was a true delight.
Not to be upstaged was Leigh Anne Albrechta as the Ambassador’s wife. Ms. Albrechta showed great execution and understanding of the choreography, but more importantly, gave a magnificent acting performance. Enter Mark Krieger as Count Danilo, the First Secretary. For obvious reasons Mr. Krieger is often in the role of leading male in the ballet’s productions; he is a well-rounded and strong performer. His ability to gain a laugh from the audience with a single raised eyebrow is proof of his refined artistry. Start to finish he gave a brilliant portrayal of the layered character.
Natalia Ashikhmina was Hanna Glawari, better known as the Merry Widow. While Ms. Ashikhmina’s technique as a dancer is indisputable sometimes her acting can come off as a little lackluster in comparison. That said she owned this role. Her playful and genuine performance was on par with her work in 2015’s Cinderella Story.
The corps de ballet consisted of both Company Dancers and the recently renamed Studio Company Members. There was a nice consistency in the level of performance from the whole company, with the newest members of the company blended seamlessly with the veterans. This Merry Widow was a strong showing for a company who excels at contemporary ballet.
Not specifically related to the performance of The Merry Widow: As effective as the newer program style is for showcasing the company behind the scenes. It would be helpful if the program contained the cast list for that particular performance. The billboard containing the cast list in the lobby is often challenging to see during the crowds at intermission. Perhaps an insert could be included with the cast list? Also, the opening night cast of dancers seems to be fairly consistent from production to production to production. It would be nice to see other dancers in the company featured on opening nights.
The Merry Widow
September 13 & 14 @ 8:00 PM
September 14 @ 2:00 PM
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 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 is currently co-Artistic Director of Mind’s Eye Theatre Company.