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Rita Kohn
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Indianapolis Artsgarden
United States
Indianapolis, IN

Embracing George Balanchine’s Legacy: Indianapolis School of Ballet Delivers a free community program of Ten New Works at Indianapolis Artsgarden July 20

by Rita Kohn
July 23, 2018
Indianapolis Artsgarden
110 W Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 631-3301
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
Celebration delineated the heartbeat of Indianapolis School of Ballet’s 2018 Summer Intensive closing program; collaboration fueled its soul.

A troupe of 50, across Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 delivered demanding choreography with discernible understanding of the intent of the music and the stories behind the score. That they did so amazes, with a fluid residency that included new students coming in for the 3-week session to join a core of 5-week students,—until one realizes—,“Oh, these are choreographers steeped in Balanchine. His legacy of living in the moment, giving everyone a chance to shine, developing forward from each person’s strong points, and yes, stretching—always stretching—mind and body, intellect and emotion.”

Set in the impeccably designed Artsgarden [by the late Walter Blackburn], to float above 4-lanes of city traffic, on July 20, with the audience facing the arched glass wall, the elements became the backdrop for the dancers. How appropriate for a sprinkle of rain to introduce “Spring,” Roberta Wong’s depiction of a festival of games-playing to a sprightly Vivaldi interlude.

And how right to be watching the dense gray clouds disperse during Wong’s interpretive retelling of Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, musically reimagined by guitarist Charlie Ballantine on his latest album, “Life is Brief: The Music of Bob Dylan” [Green Mind Records, 2018].

Victoria Lyras opened the program with Massanet’s “Meditation from Thais,” showcasing the emotive qualities of The Division 4 Ladies:

Abigail Bixler, Abigail Burkhardt, Anna Davis, Rachel Durham, Michelle Lebowski, Abby Marten and Kate Mills. The sun broke through just at the instant of the poco piu appassionato climax. Throughout, the interplay between solo violin and orchestra was visualized by the dancers as we awaited Thaïs’ decision. One could feel the breath release from the audience, being at one with the instant of decision.

The dancers in elegant gowns of black were airborne throughout the fast-paced two-minutes of Saint-Saens, crafted as “The Ball” by Paul Vitale.

Coleen Szulc, with Delibes’ Sylvia’s Waltz, tasked Division 1 students as a sparkling corps de ballet interlude, as close to a show stopper one could expect at a student dance program. Each of the ten dancers created a personality that layered the woodsy worshipful scene with the right touch of reverence and joyfulness.

Division 2 students literally ran away with “Grieg Suite” in a constant interweaving of corps and solo choreography by Vitale, who incorporated a second layering of 3-week students atop the opening fulsome story brought to the fore by 5-week students. The energy and speed belied the youth of the dancers.

Perhaps the most musically beguiling piece is Wong’s choreographic interfacing with Zoe Keating’s multifaceted marriage between classical and synthesized composition, and, per Wong, with J.S. Bach. Picking up on Keating’s style, Wong layered choreography for Level 3 and 4 dancers to merge and develop, to loop and repeat, to save and create upon. I wished only that Keating could have been there to witness how her inspired way of working has become transformative for audience, choreographer and dancers alike.

And perhaps the most intellectually profound piece was Karen Riester’s 3-minute snippet from composer Susan Kirkland Sider’s song cycle in collaboration with playwright Ellen McLaughlin. Translating Homer’s timeless Odyssey through Penelope’s point of view, was powerfully depicted by Level 3 and 4 dancers, evoking themes of abandonment, return, memory loss, grief, longing.

Ravel’s Toccata combines tempered speed and jazzy swag for Level 4 dancers to unabashedly deliver per Lyraas’ choreographic demands for technical virtuosity laced with perpetual motion. The dancers consistently rise to the instant of ‘wow.’

Emily Nord Wormersley enlisted Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” for the upbeat closing tap number. Level 1 and 2 students can steal your heart; be aware, they’ll become ingrained within your psyche so that you’ll be seeking each out individually over the next decade, same as you would have followed a sports icon rising from Little League to the Majors.

Founded in 2006, The Indianapolis School of Ballet at the start committed itself to offering a Summer Intensive curriculum to provide exceptional instruction for the serious minded ballet student to reach their desired level of achievement. Both the five-week & three-week intensive programs include classes in Technique, Pointe, Variations, Adagio, Modern, Ballroom, Jazz, Pilates, and Weight Training for Men. All students will participate in weekly lectures on nutrition, physical therapy, foot care, and seminars on college and career preparedness.

Indianapolis Ballet formed as a company in 2017. Now in its second season, following its appearances at IndyFringe Festival Aug 16-26 and at Penrod, Sept.8, the five-works Indianapolis-based program includes:

- Sept. 28-30: Balancing Acts at The Toby at Newfields
- Nov. 8-11: New Works Showcase at The District Theatre
- Dec. 14-16: The Nutcracker at Old National Centre
- Feb. 15-17: Winter Residency at The Toby at Newfields
- Aril 18-20: Spring Residency at The Toby at Newfields.

Learn more here: www.indyballet.org/

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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