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IU Ballet Theater's Spring Program East by Northeast a Gift

by Rita Kohn
March 28, 2014
Musical Arts Center - Indiana University
101 North Jordan Ave
Bloomington, IN 47406
(812) 855-7433
Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Marius Petipa's 1877 choreography for The Kingdom of the Shades (from Act II of "La Bayadere") predated the Ziegfeld Follies by some thirty years with a magnificent staging of some thirty dancers entering in measured succession down a ramp at the back of the stage. We witness the first dancer taking two steps into an arabesque in plié, then two steps to pose in tendue derriere. Then comes the second dancer, then the third, fourth, fifth—we stop counting and just marvel as the lead dancer moves the line onto the stage and herself repeats the phrase thirty times with each of the others repeating in accordance with entry. It is breathtaking. Such was Indiana University Ballet Theater's performance of the scene to kick off their Spring dance concert East by Northeast.

Imagine having thirty successive free throws at the NCAA and making every single one without faltering or calling for time out. When all the Shades are on stage they then deliver incredible corps work, breaking into solos and smaller groups before giving way to and joining in with the warrior Solor (Matthew Rusk) as he imagines the re-emergence of his beloved, the murdered Nikiya (Alexandra Hartnett). Staged by Glenda Lucena with lighting re-created by Patrick Mero, and orchestration by John Lanchbery's of Ludwig Minkus' score, the depth of grief amidst the exotic setting of India is stunning.

Balanchine's "Donizetti Variations", staged by Sandra Jennings, followed bringing us into a sunny atmosphere with its joyful playfulness. In 1960, to mark the 100th anniversary of Italy's unification, Balanchine created a celebration between a twosome and six female and three male friends. To music from Donizetti's final opera Don Sebastian, which premiered in 1838, the dancers break away from the expected classical mode with a bit of daring showmanship and a great deal of wit. One is treated to a fast-paced succession of configurations spinning out of each other between the corps and the leads who enjoy showcasing their individual virtuosity and ability to dance in unison. The dancers changed for each of the three performances.

For those of us in the audience who also ventured to Aronoff Center in Cincinnati the day before for the Cincinnati Ballet/Ballet Met Columbus presentation of Symphony in C (music by Bizet), it was a gifting of Balanchine danced to live music orchestral music—the Cincinnati Symphony under Carmen Leone and the Indiana University Symphony conducted by Stuart Chafetz.

The Indiana University Ballet Theater's program closed with Paul Taylor's 1978 work "Airs", choreographed to music by Handel and here staged by Constance Dinapoli. Opening with statuary leaning to stage left, complex footwork and configurations thereafter bring attention to the constancy of change in relationships. Ballet dancers deliver the abrupt shifts, quick scooping jumps and tiny steps with lovely clarity and flow, extending lines for a bit of nod-nod, wink-wink to the shifting corps moments in "Swan Lake". On March 28 Allison Perhach delivered the Adagio solo with eye-catching verve and reprised with the full cast of seven for the close.

Michael Vernon serves as artistic director of IU Ballet Theater.
With Alexandra Hartnett and Matthew Rusk at Musical Arts Center.

With Alexandra Hartnett and Matthew Rusk at Musical Arts Center.

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