COLORADO BALLET’S “AN EVENING UNDER THE STARS”
Attending Colorado Ballet’s 2015-16 season opener, “An Evening Under the Stars,” gave me the opportunity to get two firsts under my belt. Not only was it my first time visiting the Arvada Center for The Arts and Humanities, it was also my first time as an audience member of the Colorado Ballet. There was a vast array of audience members in the full amphitheater, from the very young to very the old. Hearing snippets of conversation everywhere, I was reminded of how important such an event is for the community, and how much it means in the lives of the local people to have and support such art and culture.
The first half of the evening featured excerpts from two classical ballets, La Sylphide and Don Quixote, and opened with a pas de deux called Pirates of the Caribbean, choreographed by Colorado Ballet’s own Sandra Brown, commissioned by the Denver Ballet Guild, and premiered in June at this year’s Le Bal de Ballet. There was also a much more modern dance piece, choreographed by Kevin Gaël Thomas, a member of the Corps de Ballet, called Lost in Dreamland. The main event of the first half, however, was the ballet Piazzolla, choreographed by another of Colorado Ballet’s leaders, Lorita Travaglia, after the famous tango composer Astor Piazzolla. This piece premiered at last year’s “An Evening Under the Stars.”
Very much a showcase of their dancers’ ability, their repertoire, and their in house choreographers, Act 1 of “An Evening Under the Stars” also introduced three dancers new to the Colorado Ballet this season. Mackenzie Dessens and Sarah Tyron both performed in the opening piece of Travaglia’s Piazzolla, called “Friendship.” The choreography was inspired by the Tango, which explains the progression of pieces in the overall ballet, from “Friendship,” to “Love,” and finally “Passion.” It also explains the intricacies of the steps in relation to the rhythm of the music, and the importance of connection and contact between the dancers in each couple.
My favorite piece in Piazzolla was definitely “Passion.” I enjoyed “Friendship,” and even though the dancers fell out of sync once or twice, the energy and movement of the piece kept up with the intensity of the tango music. I was quite fascinated by “Love,” as it appeared that the male dancer, Kevin Hale in this case, was only there to support the female dancer, Tracy Jones. An ideal version of love for some, perhaps. “Passion,” on the other hand, danced beautifully by Dana Benton and Christopher Moulton, had all the heat, intimacy, energy, and connection of the Argentine Tango. Thrilling.
The first half of the evening closed with excerpts from Don Quixote, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1871. From the virtuosity of both the technique and the strength of the dancers in these excerpts, it became clear that classical ballet is one of Colorado Ballet’s strengths. The two dancers that shone the most for me in these excerpts were the third newcomer this season, Yosvani Ramos, who joined as a principal dancer, and Asuka Sasaki, who is a soloist with the company. Ramos’ strength, his lines, and his commitment to what he’s doing on stage made him a joy to watch. And Sasaki’s flower girl took my breath away. While maintaining a kind of inner calm, she flew with grace and power.
By far, the best part of the evening came after the intermission, in Act II, when we were treated to a performance of Val Caniparoli’s contemporary ballet In Pieces. Caniparoli choreographed this specifically for the Colorado Ballet, and it was premiered at the 2013 “Ballet MasterWorks.” The combination of the choreography, the dancers’ commitment to it, and the costumes created a small world on the stage. The dancers’ bodies were used as shapes and movements rather than as characters or representations of traditional gender roles. It was the shapes and movements themselves that brought the humor, tension, and grace to the dance, not a story or characters. Throughout most of the dance, the male and female dancers got to be just dancers, all doing the same steps and all wearing almost identical costumes (yes, even the men had little skirts on). At different times, the bodies on stage reminded me of dolphins, water birds, little fish, strange insects, and tropical animals during mating season. It was stunning, surprising, refreshing, and occasionally quite funny. I look forward to more of this kind of work from the Colorado Ballet.
The official 2015-2016 season opener, La Sylphide, will run from October 2 to 11, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, followed by their annual production of The Nutcracker, from November 28 to December 27. For more information about this season’s Colorado Ballet productions, and to purchase tickets, please visit their website.
Soma Feldmar: Soma Feldmar received her MFA from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School, and is now working on her PhD in English from SUNY Buffalo, with a focus on poetics. Other, her first book of poetry, was published in 2009 from Capilano University Editions (CUE Books). Soma’s work has also appeared in various online and print journals. Her doctoral dissertation is on poet Robin Blaser and how his work brings the poetic and the ethical together, remaining open to the other and the unknown. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Soma recently relocated to Denver, CO, after five and half years in Buffalo, NY. Overjoyed to be back in Colorado, she has started her own business, Seamoon Editing Services and joined the writing team of Presenting Denver. As a former ballet, jazz, and modern dance student, Soma looks forward to more opportunities to combine her love of dance and her love of writing.