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Nicole Levesque
Performance Reviews
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Mayo Center for the Performing Arts
New Jersey Ballet
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Morristown, NJ
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New Jersey Ballet – Saturday Night Series - Swan Lake excerpts and The Love and Death of Spartacus

by Nicole Levesque
July 3, 2008
Mayo Center for the Performing Arts
Community Theatre at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts
100 South Street
Morristown, NJ 07960
(973) 539-8008

Featured Dance Company:

New Jersey Ballet
New Jersey Ballet (office)
15 Microlab Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
973.597-9600
www.njballet.org

Recently, the New Jersey Ballet Company presented excerpts from Swan Lake (Acts II and III) and The Love and Death of Spartacus at the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown, NJ. With guest artist Jose Carreño, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre in New York, joining the ranks of New Jersey Ballet for the night, the event drew quite a crowd. The anticipation in the theater as the audience waited for the curtain to rise was palpable.

When the curtain rose, a gloomy lakeside was revealed as the stark backdrop for Act II of Swan Lake. The scene began with a flapping Rothbart entering from stage left with unfocused eyes and repetitive motions lending a more demented air to the character than a threatening one. Mari Sugawa entered and the serious dancing began as she took the stage with her first grand jeté. Sugawa exuded a tragic, fragile aura on stage exemplifying the character of Odette. The character was also impressively described by Sugawa's remarkable facial expressiveness. Her technical prowess certainly added to the visualization as well. Taken as a whole, unbroken adagio lines, clear and cohesive corps work, and a comfortable partnership between Sugawa and Roja made this section of the ballet an enjoyable one.

The second act of the night, featuring excerpts from Act III of Swan Lake, started off with a bang. Albert Davydov, portraying the court Jester, jolted the audience with a dazzling display of aerials, split leaps, tours en l'air, and a whole host of other gravity-defying feats. All these energetic leaps were executed without disturbing the flamboyant hat topping Davydov's black-and-white jester costume. Davydov's air show was the highlight of the act (perhaps of the evening) in terms of audience entertainment. Unfortunately, the rest of the act was far less impressive.

In place of the four divertissments representing the birthplaces of the princesses hoping to win Siegfried's heart, there was only a vaguely Spanish flavored quartet. Finally, the black swan pas de deux was introduced as Rothbart and Odile made their entrance, accompanied by a shock of red lighting (just in case the audience hadn't noticed that something bad was about to happen). Saule Rachmedova entered the stage with an electric presence. Exuding a teasing, alluring character, Rachmedova began the act with every nuance of Odile's personality intact. The audience was disappointed, however, when this convincing start and the electricity that came with it began to fade. As fatigue set in, Odile's arms soon began flapping rather than rippling seductively. Completing only 21 of the sacred 32 fouettées in the coda of the pas de deux, Rachmedova finished the act clinging to her partner. Fortunately her partner brought the needed energy back to the program.

José Manuel Carreño danced the part of Seigfried for the Act III excerpts, and his obvious love for dancing was evident both through his energy and his perfect technique. Though the plot of Swan Lake is at times a bit thin, Carreño adapted it perfectly. For instance, when his character broods over Odile and dances a variation, he carried the audience with him through the storyline by dancing every step flawlessly.

The crowd seemed to contain quite a few of his fans (and he perhaps created a few more that night). As the curtain went down, cries of "Bravo, José!" could be heard throughout the house.

The third act of the evening, focusing on excerpts from Spartacus, featured Andrei Jouravlev and Julia Vorobyeva, dancing the roles of Spartacus and his wife Phrygia, respectively. Jouravlev danced with power and clarity, though the stage at this particular locale seemed too small for his soaring jumps. Vorobyeva's elegant lines and hyper-extended legs fit perfectly with the choreography for her character, which particularly highlighted her flighty extensions. The highlights of this segment of the evening were the partnering between the two leads and the men's sections. The partnering in this ballet is as daring as can be imagined, and both Jouravlev and Vorobyeva handled it with perfect ease. As for the men of the company, their perfectly synced leaps and bound in the corps pieces with Spartacus were exciting to behold and perfectly captured the mood of the plot. One moment, in particular, called to mind circle choreography from Sacre du Printemps, and carried a similar feeling as well.

New Jersey Ballet's latest endeavor in this medley of excerpts was, overall, a success. The dancing was engaging, the costumes attractive, and the sets pleasing to the eye. Certainly the audience seemed to think so, and this bodes well for the company as they begin their next 50 years of performing.
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