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From Swans to Splendor: Indianapolis School of Ballet's Spring Concert

by Rita Kohn
May 17, 2015
Scottish Rite Cathedral Theater
650 N Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.262.3110
This article was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis; IN. Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Indianapolis School of Ballet's Spring Concert featured three splendidly performed chestnuts from the classical repertoire and a new work by Roberta Wong. A retired professional dancer and an ISB faculty member, Wong lives in the worlds of ballet and modern, hard reality and mysticism, the mind, soul and body, photography and being a seer. Her choreography is complex, layered, deeply emotional and physically demanding. Her work "We See Things As We Are" was set on music by Estonian composer Arvo Part, whose sacred minimalism has a way of seeping into a listener's bones.

The bulk of the company's fifteen young dancers were onstage at the opening of the piece in differently numbered lines yet standing within their own space. The dancer's upper body movements giving the feel of unabated undulations.

The dancers were dressed in off-one-shoulder drab leotards with what appeared like an overskirt of grass. From limb stretching airiness, they hit the floor into seemingly floating fetal positions, rose up again and reconfigured into sub-groups. They kept changing spaces and movements until one felt they had come together in consensus, only to drift apart again as a group, like the swoop of birds emptying a space. Left behind were a single couple who began revealing their feelings towards one another when the work ended abruptly like aconversation in mid- sentence.

Wong's choreography is in a class of its own; her movement vocabulary is singular and receive its full effect one must allow it to swirl like water and air in movement opposition movement yet maintaining mutual contact.

What set ISB's performances of the classic ballets apart was the way the dancers brought their own storytelling to the fore. Building on assured technique, this young company could afford to allow emotions to resonate throughout teir performances. Watching a dancer in one and then another ballet, one saw how the emotional response of the dancers surfaced and informed the choreography with dimensional characterizations.

For Tchaikovsky's Act II of Swan Lake, guest dancer Chris Lingner as Von Rothbart filled the stage with a menacing command of the quarter moon pale-glow lakeside scene.

From the moment of entry Colin Ellis as Siegfried sensed an uneasiness that drew us into his crush of defeat in the face of evil.

Dancer Grace Phelps' perfomance as Odette layered vulnerability with the steeliness of a victim under the spell of the oppressor.

Equally outstanding was the corps of swans and cygnet. Victoria Lyras staged the ballet adding choreography to the original Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov version.

The dark mood then vanished with George Balanchine's "Valse-Fantasie," with music by Mikhail Glinka. Staged by Paul Boos and Lyras, on May 17 dancers Betsy Boxberger and Luther DeMyer with a corps of four showcased requisite speed and strength in their performances replete with joyful leaps, bounds, lifts and turns.

Next, we were prepped for a wedding and Act III of Alexandre Glazounov's Raymonda provided a colorful event filled with a variety of Hungarian-style dances including an endearing one by the youngest dancers in the pre-professional program. Lyras one again staged the ballet and added choreography to the Petipa original.

ISB's Spring Concert afforded leading roles to graduating seniors Jacqueline Hodek, who will be attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Maria Maccaroni who will be attending the University of South Carolina School of Dance, and Hayden Thomas, who will be attending IUPUI and continue at ISB as a teaching assistant for the Indy Ballet Classrooms Outreach Program.

James Leitner was production manager and lighting designer, scenic design was by Mark F. Smith, with construction by Maria and Dmitry Zaretsky and Judith Gregg Peters. Costumes were by Loukia Finale and Victoria Lyras.
Raymonda Act III - Grand pas hongrois ladies

Raymonda Act III - Grand pas hongrois ladies

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Raymonda Act III - Grand pas hongrois with Lisa Schneider, Hayden Thomas and cast.

Raymonda Act III - Grand pas hongrois with Lisa Schneider, Hayden Thomas and cast.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Raymonda Act III - Betsy Boxberger, Chris Lingner and cast.

Raymonda Act III - Betsy Boxberger, Chris Lingner and cast.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Raymonda Act III - Finale.

Raymonda Act III - Finale.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


White Swan Pas de Deux - Margaret Andriani and Andrew Copeland.

White Swan Pas de Deux - Margaret Andriani and Andrew Copeland.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Swan Lake Act II Pas de Deux - Grace Phelps, Colin Ellis and cast.

Swan Lake Act II Pas de Deux - Grace Phelps, Colin Ellis and cast.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Swan Swan Act II - Grace Phelps.

Swan Swan Act II - Grace Phelps.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Swan Swan Act II - Waltz.

Swan Swan Act II - Waltz.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


George Balanchine's Valse-Fantaisie - Grace Phelps, Luther DeMyer and cast.

George Balanchine's Valse-Fantaisie - Grace Phelps, Luther DeMyer and cast.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography

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