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The Stankovic Ballet Company - Program IV: Quiet Impressions

by Robert Abrams
November 20, 2003
Washington Square Methodist Church
201 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 777-2528

The Stankovic Ballet Company - Program IV: Quiet Impressions

Washington Square United Methodist Church
133 West 4th Street
New York, New York

www.stankovicballet.com
This Winter Season runs through November 22, 2003.

Robert Abrams
November 20, 2003

Suzana Stankovic and company presented five original ballets.

The Calling and the Journey showcased David Guggino and Suzana Stankovic dancing with well matched, if unconventional, partnering. The beginning of the work was grounded. Simple longing was made palpable as the dancers moved in circles. Nervous energy was expressed as a pitter patter en pointe. Ms. Stankovic's emotions, her hope and fear, were clearly readable in her face and in her movement.

Mr. Guggino was somewhat emotionless, but I think this was intentional. It was plain to see that the Girl wanted more of him than just the Guy's strength, which he was unwilling to give. For instance, in one section, the Girl repeatedly jumps onto the Guy's back. He carries her for a while but then lets her slip away.

This dance had classical lines combined with the sort of obsessive compulsive behavior that lets you know the characters on stage are real people, even if the "obsessive" movements on stage were too stylized and too beautiful to be real. One such key movement was the way that Ms. Stankovic pulsed her hands in opposition to each other in front of her face (palms towards her face).

Music: "Sonata Posthume" for Violin and Piano by Maurice Ravel.

Sorrow and Forgiveness reversed the roles: in this work the woman pulls away from the man. For instance, in the beginning, the man repeatedly tries to caress her hand, but she pulls her hand away from him. Unlike the previous work where the man and the woman end apart, in this work they end together with a hug. Both of these two works showed convincing partnering.

This dance was energetic. Both Heather McEwen and Yu Xin were up to the challenge. The choreography was well crafted with the music. Mr. Xin's spins were particularly graceful.

Both this work and the previous one expressed a strong sense of characters and dynamic interactions between those characters. This resulted in just enough story to keep the dancers human within an otherwise pure dance idiom. These were very accessible, quality ballets in a reverent space.

The two works were well matched and were placed in the correct sequence such that the energy built from one to the other. They were presented as separate ballets, but they could easily have been two acts of one ballet.

Music: Second Movement of "Violin Sonata #5" by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Shadows and Clouds featured David Guggino, Heather McEwen and Diana Pan. The choreography had a similar intent to the two previous works, but didn't have an effective hook. It seemed like a lot of aimless running around interspersed with a few pretty moments. Ms. Pan showed grace and strength. I suspect I would have had more positive things to say about the dancers had the choreography been stronger. Ms. Pan is also rather tall compared to the sort of person people are socialized to think of as a ballerina. I am all in favor of dancers of varied sizes, and I liked her dancing, but I thought that some combination of a different approach to partnering that could help make her moves through the air seem more effortless, and choreography that took advantage of her size, would have enhanced the work and thus would have shown her dancing in a better light. This isn't so much a criticism as an observation that there is an opportunity here to take more risks and create something truly special. Since this is one of Ms. Stankovic's older works (it premiered in May 2003, where as the previous two works premiered tonight), these criticisms should be properly taken as a compliment: comparing these works provides clear evidence that Ms. Stankovic's abilities as a choreographer have grown over time.

Music: "Piano Sonata in B Minor" by Domenico Scarlatti.

Sad Day was a solo performed by Ms. Stankovic. She danced with compact and enigmatic grace. She expressed musicality with her whole body.

Music: "Gymnopedie" by Eric Satie.

A Boy and a Girl was another work with expressive characters and dynamic interaction. The dancing had a child-like, playful sensibility. This was shown in a momentary sequence of tickling, but also in less obvious ways. The dancers would pop up from the floor one after the other as if playing a game of "can you do what I can do?" or "hide and seek". The two dancers, David Guggino and Suzana Stankovic, took pleasure in doing simple things together like looking at a bird in an intricately carved bird cage. There was no bird in the cage, but it was easy to imagine it with them.

Mr. Guggino launched into well done kicking leaps.

I could easily imagine this dance doing for pure dance choreography what the Nutcracker does for story ballets in terms of introducing children to ballet, with the obvious caveat that it is rather difficult to compete with a forty foot tree rising out of the stage. A Boy and a Girl is the sort of choreography where the obvious choice would have been to dress it up in cute costumes, perhaps from the Aesop's Fables book used as a prop in the beginning of the dance, but the choreography by itself created such a strong character study that there was no need to dress up the work to make it endearing.

Music: "Concerto for Two Pianos and Strings in C Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach.

After the performance was finished I had a chance to talk to Ms. Stankovic. She remarked that tonight's presentation represented something of a new direction for her work. She felt that she would have been less concerned if she had stuck to pure classical choreography; that perhaps some portions weren't as sharp as they could have been. Nonetheless, she was glad she tried something different and intends to continue to do so.

Frankly, I thought she was being too hard on herself. As a whole, the evening was a fine presentation. The works took risks, and while it is true that sometimes things didn't work perfectly or could have used a touch more polish, most of the time the risks did succeed in creating compelling dance. Based on tonight's performance, Ms. Stankovic is a choreographer and a dancer to watch.

Choreography was by Suzana Stankovic. Lighting design was by Gregory Kostal. Costume and set design was by Suzana Stankovic. Stage management and sound operation was by Kathy Richards. Light board operation was by Terry DuBray. Video documentation was by Andy Delbarco. Development assistance was by Alie Vidich.

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