Texas Ballet Theater Review: The Poetry of Expression II
April 20, 2021 | Digital
“The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle
In The Poetry of Expression: Part II, the second installment of its two-part spring virtual mixed repertoire, Texas Ballet Theater has shown again how companies can innovate and blend ballet, music, and cinematography to communicate with their audiences in ways that are provocative and beautiful.
Although everyone is anxious to return to the theater, and nothing can replace the experience of live arts, I predict that virtual performances will remain viable because they open up an entirely different storytelling avenue to artists.
As with the first installment, The Poetry of Expression II was filmed on location across Dallas and Fort Worth and includes two separate and distinct performances – Bloom, a traditional ballet in four parts choreographed by Andre Silva, and Horizon, a sci-fi narrative ballet with multiple vignettes choreographed by Jiyan Dai.
Bloom seems equally an ode to spring as it is an allegory of the return of the arts following the long winter of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Primarily set in the Sammons Center for the Arts, the dancers, adorned in colorful costumes that evoke the wildflowers of springtime, are bathed in the natural light from the windows in the otherwise empty and spacious studio.
When watching Bloom, we view the ballet from the traditional perspective of a spectator in the audience, and our attention is definitely drawn to the movement and music over the space and narrative.
Silva’s choreography is light and effervescent, which pairs well with the traditional score and compliments the hopeful themes of rebirth and growth.
I was especially pleased to see the return of Nicole Von Enck and Joamanuel Velazquez in the second movement of Bloom, since they were such a joy to watch in The Poetry of Expression: Part I. The couple’s partnering is truly captivating.
In contrast to the first four movements, which the filmmaker portrays as small and intimate within the large space of the studio, the finale features twenty-three members of the company at once spread out across the many ledges and tiers of the Fort Worth Water Gardens.
Rather than appear dominated by their venue, the company appears large and imposes itself on the backdrop of the multi-level gardens and Downtown Fort Worth. This transition from small to large – inside to outside – helps communicate the story of growth and rejuvenation.
Similar to VREC in the first installment, Horizon invites the viewer on a five-part journey through other worlds and through Dai’s imagination.
We are first greeted by Celeste Gaiera, who challenges us to consider whether we all have an identical representation of ourselves inhabiting some other part of the vast universe. Gaiera and Alexandra Farber then come together from across the galaxy to dance as mirror images of one another – alter egos set against the extraterrestrial backdrop of the Benbrook Dam.
Gaiera and Farber do an excellent job of capturing the notion of a galactic yin and yang; contradicting yet complementary personalities that exist in all of us and have the potential of creating holistic balance.
The rest of Horizon is anchored by Carolyn Judson. She serves as the connector between the next four disparate pieces – Xanadu, Colonization of Mars, March of the Giants, and Fortitude, the finale that features Judson herself.
From an idyllic garden, to the Red Planet, Horizon uses a serial storytelling format to mix themes that are both interstellar and terrestrial in nature. With the benefit of hindsight, I feel as if Dai’s introduction of Judson after the conclusion of the “Girl in the Mirror” misses an opportunity to create a more cohesive story arc for his audience.
Just as The Story of You utilized the first person perspective of a museum tour and VREC cast Dolores as our virtual host, guide, and narrator, Judson’s character could have served as the bookends of our journey through space and myth.
One of the most compelling performances from Horizon is Valentin Batista, Philip Slocki, and Brett Young joining together for “March of the Giants”, a purpose-driven, forceful tour through the streets and landmarks of Fort Worth.
What makes “March of the Giants” memorable are the score of the same name by Francesco D’Andrea, which was reminiscent of the works of Gustav Holst or John Williams, and the narration that provokes us to consider what we would be without the arts. When stating that, “some have called the arts non-essential,” the narrator voices an unmistakable opinion about the manner in which art and artists were marginalized during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
With its two-part spring performance, Texas Ballet Theater creatively uses dance and filmmaking together to entertain and educate its audience. Although some of the narrative walks the line between ballet and drive-in sci-fi, the stories, themes, and portrayals are unique and they allow us to see artists with whom we are familiar from the stage in a completely different light.
The Poetry of Expression: Part II will be available to subscribers and on demand viewers through April 30th and Texas Ballet Theater will be returning to the live stage with two al fresco performances in May.
Featured Photo for this Texas Ballet Theater review of Alexandra Farber and Celeste Gaiera in Horizon © Jiyan Dai.
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