Friday April 9, 2010 - Above, Kokyat's photo of Ramona Kelley and Adrian Silver in John-Mark Owen's TRIPTYCH. John-Mark's work, which we have watched developing from its early stages, was one of five presented in this year's Ballet Builders programme at Ailey
The evening began with Deanna Carter's ASH TO GLASS set to music of Garry Eister and Ezio Bosso. The work has a contemporary feel and is set for eight dancers. It begins with a sort of 'snapshot', then commences a mercurial ensemble. A pas de deux (I wish I could name the individual dancers) is followed by a finely-crafted triple adagio in which each of three couples dance in their own sphere but simultaneously. The final ensemble could benefit from a bit of tightening but overall the piece made a fine impression and was well-danced. Originated at Ballet Quad Cities where Ms. Carter is resident choreographer, ASH TO GLASS is discussed in this brief video.
John-Mark Owen's TRIPTYCH held the audience spellbound, just as I thought it would. Kokyat and I have been following this piece almost from its 'birth' (one of Kokyat's images, above) and it's been a case of ever-deepening admiration both for the work and for John-Mark's superb dancers, Ramona Kelley and Adrian Silver. Using sacred/spiritual music of Bouzignac, Biber and Rachmaninov produces an unusual paradox since the relationship being traced in the three duets is sensuous and passionate; John-Mark finds the key to this dichotomy in the intensity of the partnering which Ramona and Adrian have refined to a seamless arc. Two passages of lifts - one where Adrian move across the stage with Ramona aloft and the second a sustained, spiraling motif - are definitely moments to anticipate but there isn't a wasted step or gesture in this long piece, nor any lull in the emotional journey. In the second movement there is a lovely, unabashed tenderness of expression but by simply taking a single step backwards at the start of the third movement, Adrian signals the direction the relationship will take. The music, the choreography, the lighting and the opulent beauty of the two dancers make TRIPTYCH one of the finest dance works I've seen.
Dancers from ABT (Jose Sebastian and Devon Teuscher, above) and Ballet Noir (NaTalia Johnson and Leyland Simmons) appeared in Ja' Malik's "THE HOUR BEFORE..." set to music of Joby Talbot. Dancegoers will be familiar with Talbot's work thru Christopher Wheeldon's supremely beautiful FOOL'S PARADISE. The program lists tonight's showing as 'excerpts' so it will be interesting to see what direction Ja' takes in the full work in its final state.
But already - right from the opening moment where Leyland comes skidding across the stage in silence - the piece is visually intriguing. As the excellent onstage musicians (Jia Xu, Emily Kalish, Rick Quantz and Jennifer DeVore) strike up Talbot's music (from String Quartets 1 & 2) Leyland launches Sunset with an agitated solo which is echoed further by NaTalia in her solo; they dance together, restless and ever-alert to the music. The young ABT dancers (Devon and Jose) then appear in a fluid adagio (Sunrise) danced with subtle inflections and again perfectly expressive of the music. Now we need to see how Ja' will evolve this into its final, finished form. The elements that we have seen - and so well-danced by all four artists - are impressive.
New York City Ballet soloists Savannah Lowery and Ask LaCour (in Paul Kolnik's headshots, above) looked great in the David Fernandez piece OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. They were joined by three other women - Georgia St Onge Lathrop, Katie Moorhead and Carolyn Taconi) - who had no problem at all keeping pace with the dynamic duo from NYCB. Music of Terry Riley (Requiem for Adam) opens with lamenting, almost weeping string motifs of downward cascades. Ask moves with cool grace and the girls seem like attendant priestesses. The work then evolves into a more energetic state; at NYCB we are used to seeing Ask as a sort of iconic, coolly looming presence but here he showed himself equally at home as a virtuoso with flashing turns and big jumps. Each of the girls have a solo and Ask partners each of them in turn. Savannah's power and authority are vibrant, and she capitalized on the exciting impression she made last weekend on this same stage dancing for Avi Scher. The Fernandez piece comes to a perfect ending with the dancers in repose on the floor; but then they get up and start dancing again. A bit of editing here will make the piece all the more potent.
In a truly grand finale, choreographer Pedro Ruiz turned to music of Antonio Vivaldi for a large-scale work (fourteen dancers) entitled TEMPO ROSSO. Three principal couples are backed by a corps of eight women. Jesse Dunham has devised superb costumes: the corps women in wine-coloured bodices with diaphanous bustled skirts (the principal women wear the same style in different colours) and the
Ruiz understands what a gift the music of Vivaldi can be to a savvy choreographer and he has brilliantly woven together a score for his ballet by culling both vocal and instrumental gems from the composer's vast treasury. Unafraid to excerpt the exact moments he wants, Ruiz avoids the pitfalls of having to fill up the music with padding. He knows his vision and how to make it work. TEMPO ROSSO (perhaps the title derives from Vivaldi's nickname of 'il prete Rosso' - The Red Priest) is a jewel.
I've got to see it again in order to comprehend it all, but in terms of music, structure, steps, lighting and costuming TEMPO ROSSO offers one delight after another. The energy level was provocative and the dancers seemed thoroughly immersed in what they were doing. In each of the first three movements, a featured couple appeared: Eriko Iisaku and Marc Heitzman, Jessica Black and Adrian Silver, and Mina Lawton and Jake Warren. Each of these partnerships was smooth and expressive. The ensemble created one especially memorable image in which each woman appeared with a lighted candle. I was particularly impressed by one of the women in the ensemble, Courtney Henry, who produced one elegantly stretched-out grand jetee as she made her exit. TEMPO ROSSO abounds in glowing images. Pedro Ruiz and his assistant Elise Victoria Drew should be feeling very proud of this creation.
Overall, the programme was strong both in terms of music and choreography as well as in the performances of the individual dancers. Congratulations to everyone involved! If anyone has photos from these works they'd like to share, please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.