Grand Rapids Ballet Review - business as (un)unusual - november 2020
Grand Rapids Ballet Review: business as (un)usual November 13, 2020 | Digital
The opening of Grand Rapids Ballet’s business as (un)usual program gives me chills. With the city as their backdrop, dancers in street clothes are beckoned by the sweet sound of Gene Hahn‘s strings as he begins playing Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.
Artistic Director James Sofranko so flawlessly captures the essence of the emotion that draws artists to each other in his new piece Calling Forth, that irresistible attraction dancers have to music, that sensation of not being able to control the urge to move. In a poignant transition from street to stage, the cameras pan physically distanced, masked dancers longingly looking upward toward the beacon of their theatre and then capture the magnetic emotions that pull them inside.
Calling Forth continues in the Peter Martin Wege Theatre, a series of duets bookended by trios; the threesomes are the most dynamic. The opener is composed of women who just can’t seem to stop smiling for the simple reason that they are dancing; if permitted to vocalize, I imagine they may even burst into joyous laughter.
The closer, which features Gretchen Steimle flanked by James Cunningham and Branden Reiners, is surely the strongest of the entire piece as they all exude a confidence in both their technique and presence. In fact, it is disappointing that the only other time Steimle makes an appearance is for a short instant in her own piece Be Here Now; it would have been lovely should she have been given more stage time.
Following are two works created by company artists – Matthew Wenckowski‘s Such As You and the aforementioned Be Here Now – that both premiered as part of Grand Rapids Ballet Jumpstart program last year. Such As You is a male duet between Isaac Aoki and Nigel Tau in which ambient music plays background to expressive hands that manipulate and provoke reactions between the pair. The excerpt from Steimle’s piece features Nathan Young seemingly reliving the emotions of his past.
Following is the second world premiere of the program Three Offerings by Darrell Grand Moultrie, each section suggesting a different aspect of the human condition, notably those most prominent in the current climate – perseverance, community, and hope.
A solo, quartet, and solo, respectively, each are distinct not only in theme but in musical composer and costuming; in fact, they could be performed independently of one another without diminishing the impact of the others. Words that Moultrie utter in a video conversation with Sofranko (seen in bonus footage that is epilogue to the performance) especially resonate in relationship with Three Offerings: that from art, people “get what they need.
Next up are two of Resident Choreographer Penny Saunders’ works – a pas de deux from The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Talesand One To Three – with a world premiere of company dancer Yuka Oba-Muschiana sandwiched in between.
Aside from Cunningham’s energetic solo in One To Three, Oba-Muschiana’s Wave is the most memorable of this portion of the show. Apprentice Celeste Lopez-Keranen does a commendable job of dominating the stage in vibrant red, incorporating the stylistic influences of the choreography.
The fusion of Spanish paso dobleport de bras and mannerisms with Argentinian tango music is an interesting choice that seems to work well albeit a bit culturally confusing. The three girls in blue – Sarah Marley, Madison Massara, and Emily Reed – gorgeous both in silhouette and spotlight – I realize afterward are the same trio that so exuberantly open the program.
The most classical ballet selection closes the evening. Titiana and Oberon’s pas de deux from Christopher Stowell‘s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is danced adoringly by Oba-Muschiana and Josue Justiz and is a good teaser of what audiences can look forward to when the company performs the full production on the stage.
Grand Rapids Ballet Artistic Director James Sofranko
Grand Rapids Ballet’s business as (un)usual program is available to view through November 15. For more information about that program and the others in their 2020/2021 Season, check out the calendar below.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.