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Indianapolis Ballet's Love is in the Air Enriches with its Multiple Insights

by Rita Kohn
February 16, 2019
The Toby Theater at Newfields
4000 N. Michigan Rd.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 923-1331
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
Indianapolis Ballet plumbs love’s fulsome symbolism from dusty rose to blood red, from royal plush to pulsing ether. IB’s residency production Love is in the Air at Newfields, February 15-17 lifted love beyond cliche to search what it is that motivates and propels our pursuit of it. How society confines choice. Why ambition can soar and deflate. When nature can enchant and when we feel compelled to cross the line between love and….

Indianapolis Ballet, emerged as a professional company a year ago. Its thrust centers on expanding choreographic and thematic palettes. Anchored within, and proceeding forward from, Balanchine’s demands for technical excellence and awareness of the worlds through which movement can plumb emotion, IB in this program asks dancers and audience alike to consider the notion of consequence.

The program opened with a stalwart of the classical ballet repertory, Victoria Lyras and Paul Vitali restaging of Marius Petipa’s "Grand Pas Classique" and "Pas de Trois" from the ballet Paquita danced to music by Ludwig Minkus. These joyous segments offer the happily ever after conclusion to the tension-filled scenario that at onset would not allow Paquita and Lucien to marry. The twists of fate counter the edicts of state to enable love to reign. While the lesson is never throw away a medallion, the delight within Petipa’s original summation lies with the variations shared by any number of ballerinas, whose artistic embrace is a facet of love through honoring.

At the Feb. 14 dress rehearsal, Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Linger defined dedication through demanding choreography. Emerging from perfect corps alignment, Rowan Allegra, Abigail Bixler, Abigail-Rose Crowell, Camila Ferrera, Jessica Miller and Katherine Sawicki execute variations spotlighting their individuality. Kristin Toner and Shea Johnson will alternate Paquita and Lucien, respectively, Feb. 15 and 17.

Rowan Allegra and Abigail Bixler, with Khris Santos, joyfully lead in the Pas de Trois, alongside delicate corps work and tender variations by Buse Babadag, Indiana Cote, Ana Davis, Abigail Einterz Michelle Lebowski, Sierra Levin, Abby Marten and Mary Ann Schaefer. Mark Smith’s scenic design is a perfect fit with the multilayered glitter of Lyras’ tutus in rich claret and rose’.

Next, “The Hunt,” set to selections of Danny Elfman’s "The Planet of the Apes" score is a premiere work by Scott Jovovich. “The costumes are Roman Gladiator-esqe and the loose story is a pending battle or hunt. My direction to the dancers is it’s a battle between what you believe you’re capable of and what you want most to be capable of," said Jovovich. “The choreography is very athletic and demanding. It’s very dynamic and intended to be an exciting and challenging experience for both the audience and the dancers.

Continuing my artistic relationship with Vicky and Paul, spanning 38 years, they’ve asked me to come in and create a Contemporary Ballet that challenges the Dancers both technically and stylistically. The piece is musically and physically dramatic and a great counter-stylistically to the other pieces on the program.”

Indeed, feeling the immersion into a hunt that is not to kill, rather it is to capture the centrality of personal dedication, a personal quest organically emerging in the midst of others equally striving. Working collaboratively, the individual can shine without overshadowing. James Leitner’s dimensionally rich lighting design is integral to the incentive swirling within the dancers. Full of surprises, the work’s physicality uplifts.

Countering this intensity, Lyras’ choreography to Amilcare Ponchielli’s "Dance of the Hours" brings forth a corps of fifteen dancers from the Indianapolis School of Ballet sharing communion with flora through the hours. Emulating the constantly shifting scenarios of banks of blooms are Zoe Crawford, Claudia Durham, Lillian Harlett, Daisy Herein, Josephine Kirk, Rebecca Rundkvist; Kristen Dees, Josephine Killian, Quinn Potter; Calista Bolden, Ava Gustitus, Jacqueline Killian, Scarlett Kohl, Juliet Potts, Isa Taipan.

Closing with a world premiere of "Carmen," Lyras’ choreography has all the earmarks of a masterwork. Mining the core of Georges Bizet’s music, the work opens with individual spotlights shafting upon the principals, one-by-one, in foretelling characterization pose. Blackout hurls us into instantaneous smoky tumult of a cantina, with everyone thrusting upon us interpersonal agendas. Unfolding in a series of scenarios, with the deliberate urgency of Duchamp’s Nu descendant un escalier, Lyras brings us directly into Carmen’s interior progressive motion —she is who she is, spirited and free-willed beyond even the Gypsies’ counterculture. Here we experience the overlapping facets of Carmen as we absorb them within our vision, yet at the very same time we are encircled by everyone else’s viewpoint —her female friends and adversaries, the flirtatious males, her would-be lovers, even her own overlapping desires and needs. If only the Fortune Teller could stop action. But it’s in the cards, and like Duchamp’s figure, once set in motion, the momentum cannot, of its own volition, stop midway. Lyras' "Carmen" is brilliant within its timelessness as a cubist base thrusts us into futurism. While anyone’s life can be seen as fractured, we don’t fully comprehend its fatality even when we behold the reading of the palm.

Achingly manifesting Don Jose’s fall at the dress rehearsal, Shea Johnson will do a turn around as Escamillo on the 15th and 17th. Kristin Toner layers Carmen towards depths of inevitability. She and Johnson take their evolving relationship through choreography that elicited audible reaction from the audience on Feb. 14. Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Lingner alternate in the roles. Glenn Kelich was Escamillo on the 14th. Camila Ferrera is the female taking on Carmen. Their fight scene is the turning point. Indiana Cote and Jessica Miller, as Carmen’s companions, show us a side of Carmen absent in the opera. Karen Scalzitti-Kennedy brings fullness to the role of Fortune Teller.

Completing the ensemble are: Rowan Allegra, Buse Babadag, Abigail Bixler, Abigail-Rose Crowell, Anna Davis, Michelle Lebowski, Sierra Levin, Abby Marten, Katherine Sawicki, Mary Ann Schaefer; Greg Guesser, Leonard Perez, Khris Santos, Andy Sousa, Aaron Steinberg.

Next up for Indianapolis Ballet:

Swan Lake
April 18 and 19, 7:30 p.m.; April 20, 3 p.m.
The Toby at Newfields
Indianapolis, IN
tickets at indyballet.org/Swan Lake
317-955-7525
Kristin Toner (Carmen) and Shea Johnson (Don José) in Carmen, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Kristin Toner (Carmen) and Shea Johnson (Don José) in Carmen, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Glenn Kelich (Escamillo) holds Kristin Toner (Carmen) as Shea Johnson (Don José) laments during the final scene of Carmen, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Glenn Kelich (Escamillo) holds Kristin Toner (Carmen) as Shea Johnson (Don José) laments during the final scene of Carmen, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Students from the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program shined in Dance of the Hours, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Students from the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program shined in Dance of the Hours, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


The charming finish of Dance of the Hours as performed by students from the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

The charming finish of Dance of the Hours as performed by students from the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


IB company apprentice Leonard Perez strikes a pose during Scott Jovovich’s The Hunt, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

IB company apprentice Leonard Perez strikes a pose during Scott Jovovich’s The Hunt, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


(L to R) Katherine Sawicki, Buse Babadag, Camila Ferrera and Rowan Allegra are left standing at the end of Scott Jovovich’s The Hunt, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

(L to R) Katherine Sawicki, Buse Babadag, Camila Ferrera and Rowan Allegra are left standing at the end of Scott Jovovich’s The Hunt, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Kristin Toner takes the lead during Paquita Grand Pas Classique, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Kristin Toner takes the lead during Paquita Grand Pas Classique, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Jessica Miller performs a solo variation during Paquita Grand Pas Classique, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Jessica Miller performs a solo variation during Paquita Grand Pas Classique, part of Indianapolis Ballet’s production Love is in the Air, performed Feb. 15-17 at The Tobias Theater at Newfields.

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography

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