Triangle Arts&Entertainment – Two choreographers complement and contrast at Carolina Ballet’s “Firebird”

September 12th, 2014

by Denise Cerniglia

Carolina Ballet is opening their 17th season with a fabulous mixed bill: a beautifully diverse program that shows the company’s range. The show opens with a ballet by newly appointed choreographer in residence, Zalman Raffael, followed by a new piece by Artistic Director Dr. Robert Weiss, and finishes flamboyantly with the headliner, Firebird, also choreographed by Dr. Weiss.

In shades of violet, Raffael’s ballet, Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3, is a dance of contrast and complement. On opening night, Jan Burkhard and Yevgeny Shlapko were bold in pas de deux, first a passionate adagio with an unrequited edge, and then with an allegro with hummingbird-like movement. Burkhard’s corporeal boldness was contrasted with six dancers who formed a corps of light and shadow. Alicia Fabry, Oliver Béres. and Adam Crawford Chavis danced a poetic pas de trois, with Béres and Chavis dancing as if in response to Fabry’s movements.

Dr. Weiss’s Les Saltimbanques, Stravinsky: Symphony in C is modern and edgy, like Igor Stravinsky’s symphony which, as he explained prior to the show, was referred to as “the first cubist symphony” in Stravinsky’s day.

The dancers’ white and primary color-blocked costumes against striking backgrounds of red or blue highlight the continuity of simple lines in their movement. The basic color scheme also demands clean, precise and synchronized movements, which the cast of 17 dancers delivered on opening night without fail.

This ballet is very Weissesque in its balance. There are connected opposites, both physically and in mood. It is both soft and bold, both playful and intense. Although Dr. Weiss himself says this ballet has no deep meaning, it has a deep feeling of human connection and a joyful togetherness, which I enjoy and am happy to find in many of his abstract ballets.

Marcelo Martinez demonstrated the extremes in the human range of motion.

Firebird, the program’s headliner, is a short and sweet story ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky. Martinez is always the perfect dark force on stage, this time as the Sorcerer. Richard Krusch and his amazing feet danced brilliantly as a somewhat naive and unassuming Prince Ivan. Margaret Severin-Hansen stole the show with caught-bird innocence and creature-of-the-wild contortions. Always composed Lara O’Brien, who danced the role of Princess Katarina, is convincing royalty.

This is at the top of my list for story ballets. The story is short and simple, and the dancing is non-stop. There isn’t even a second of on-stage milling around. The costumes and set are straight from the pages of an elaborately illustrated storybook.

What a great sampling and hint of what’s to come for lovers of the ballet this season. Dr. Weiss’ Les Saltimbanques was my favorite with its abstract simplicity and connectedness, but all three make this program a must-see for ballet lovers of any age.

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