The Colorado Ballet’s Performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
I am spoiled for airplane travel forever. From now on, when the cruel joke is made to “sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride,” I will think longingly of my comfortable time in the sleek, reclining seats of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I have to say it: The “Ellie” is absolutely gorgeous and truly world-class. It is very special and Coloradans can be proud that Denver is its home.
This is where I was privileged to see the Colorado Ballet perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the night of September 26th, 2014 as the Colorado Ballet Orchestra provided a masterful rendition of Mendelssohn. Live dance and live music (including the work of vocal guest artists, sopranos Amanda Balestrieri and Ana Spadoni, alongside the Colorado Children’s Chorale) together create a new and more powerful creature than either one alone.
Intrigued by the unusual character of what was developing around me as I sat in the near-dark, I began to wonder. Perhaps ballet was cinema before cinema? Idealistic perfection and fantasy, through human power rather than technology? For how long has this desire for a kind of transcendence existed? How intense is this desire, such that it has continuously moved people to stretch human bodies and perception to incredible physical and intellectual lengths?
Real depth and separation of space was effectively created on stage by cleverly used multiple scrims and set pieces of varying heights. As the Fairy Court (well-represented by the young dancers of the Colorado Ballet Studio Company, and many admirably focused– and crowd-pleasing– children) blithely celebrated, we were transported.
Some screens lifted and others fell in order to grant the audience a glimpse into the fairy realm and the forest clearing that housed Queen Titania’s private bower. Asuka Sasaki’s Peaseblossom– Titania’s chief attendant– is such a pleasure to watch. I sometimes wondered if she might not come back down to the ground. She made me feel a little lighter myself.
The trickster character of Puck dominates Shakespeare’s play. Traditionally, the most powerful instigator is a male monarch, and Fairy King Oberon is indeed the one giving orders, but it is Puck who actually causes the shifts that move the action and change relationships. Sean Omandam as Puck rather steals this show with his wicked expressiveness and extreme athleticism.
Gregory K. Gonzales’s portrayal of Bottom certainly rivals Omandam’s performance, simply because Gonzales is a seasoned and thoroughly accomplished professional who polishes every production in which he takes part. He both embraces and riffs on Bottom’s oafishness, elevating the crude to charming. How refreshing it is to see him in a highly comedic role.
The strongest point in the ballet may be the dance of the four human lovers (Demetrius, Helena, Lysander and Hermia) in the second act. They engage in riotous, well-acted and amusing choreography in which the consequences of the whole drama are played out. The two men (Jesse Marks and Viacheslev Buchkovskiy, in this performance) nail an impressive co-flip of Helena as the mixed-up partners attempt to orient themselves. Sharon Wehner’s Helena was delightful; Wehner has significant comic awareness and ability.
The “Wedding Men” may be the unsung heroes of this ballet. Without at all denigrating the efforts and artistry of every other dancer, I want to draw attention to the strength and vim of these men. Dancer Christophor Moulton, especially, embodied the joyful spirit appropriate to a wedding day, and his impressive springs were matched only by his precise control.
The ending duet of the Fairy King and Queen among the stars makes for a lovely finish and acts as a reminder of– and a few last moments in– the tilted, magical world we briefly visited. Titanis might want to watch out, though; Oberon’s earlier, remonstrative duet with Puck was a feat of partner awareness and intimate interaction.
Ballet seemingly effortlessly infused with comedy? A theater experience that is neither stiff nor stilted? Optional closed-captioning in Spanish and English on the seat backs? A chance to participate in Denver’s burgeoning emergence as a premier artistic community? Yes, please.
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.