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Indiana University Ballet Theater's Fall Ballet a Triumph

by Rita Kohn
October 3, 2014
Musical Arts Center - Indiana University
101 North Jordan Ave
Bloomington, IN 47406
(812) 855-7433
This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Indiana University Ballet Theater presented an exceptionally engaging program of works that together showed how three choreographers carried ballet into new and varied emotional and technical spheres, challenging dancers to grow outwardly and inwardly from their classical training while equally inviting audience members to absorb how dance grew to evoke how we feel in real time. We were in the moment of searching within our own hearts, minds and souls to absorb situations as diverse as being part of a French Garden scene, mourning the death of a child and recognizing the whimsy of Rube Goldberg-like mechanization. In each case the youthfulness of the dancers added poignancy and the bare stage with only lighting as a companion allowed movement and the essence of the body to be uppermost.

George Balanchine's sparkling "Emeralds" continues IU's celebration of Distinguished Professor of Ballet Violette Verdy and her long association with Balanchine, who specially created "Emeralds" for her in 1967. It's a ballet so exquisite we think it can't be hard, but watch the ever changing footwork with those extra little steps and tiny jumps, and witness the expressiveness of arms flowing and capturing the very essence of weightlessness and the intertwining of bodies into and out of intricate configurations. In calmness there is speed. As an atmospheric work set on music by Faure and with no story but the one we conjure up for ourselves, one is beguiled into perfection.

The mood totally changed with Antony Tudor's "Dark Elegies" with its opening stark outlines of immobile bodies grounded to the stage floor. Gone are the sparkling costumes. Now it's the plainness of peasant clothing and Mahler's piercing and jabbing music mirrored by the steps of a woman who darts into the stoic scene, anger raging; spent, she is absorbed into the group as a man and a woman enter with supplications that break your heart, followed by yet another distraught couple.

Something too terrible for words has happened. And then we get it with the fourth song, a role Tudor originally created in 1937 for the young Agnes de Mille. Through this mother and the following father-role, we realize a sudden epidemic has taken not one, not two, but all their children and all that is left is the parental recreation of what it was like to witness children at play. Resignation to fate does not erase grief; it merely helps alleviate unbearable pain. Tudor with this seminal work bridged ballet into what we now know as modern dance, and we recognize how de Mille absorbed his genius into her own choreography from the 1940s forward.

With David Parsons' humor and a compilation of Rossini Overtures propelling black clad dancers [who resemble cogs in a conveyor belt] to engage and disengage themselves with an envelope that dropped into their midst and go through a series of hilarious hither and yon episodes with bodies twisting and contorting into a mash-up of Chinese acrobats, Marcel Marceau, and Pilobolus-like situations before that envelope gets a swift toss to where? "The Envelope" premiered as a modern dance work in 1984. It still deftly defies knowing who exactly is in charge and why this envelope is so special.

Live music always is a plus with IU Ballet Theater as are professionals whose careers intersect with the works being presented. Their residencies at IU benefit us beyond Bloomington.
IU Ballet Theater in George Balanchine 'Emeralds'.

IU Ballet Theater in George Balanchine "Emeralds".

Photo © & courtesy of Christophe Buszkiewicz


IU Ballet Theater in Antony Tudor's 'Dark Elegies'.

IU Ballet Theater in Antony Tudor's "Dark Elegies".

Photo © & courtesy of Christophe Buszkiewicz


IU Ballet Theater in Antony Tudor's 'Dark Elegies'.

IU Ballet Theater in Antony Tudor's "Dark Elegies".

Photo © & courtesy of Christophe Buszkiewicz


IU Ballet Theater in David Parsons' 'The Envelope'.

IU Ballet Theater in David Parsons' "The Envelope".

Photo © & courtesy of Christophe Buszkiewicz

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