Up Close on Hope’s First Installment Delights Audiences

danceFestival Ballet Providence opens its 37th season with the first installment of Up Close On Hope, a dance series presented in the company’s Hope Street studio. While not as demanding as past programs — the classical numbers do not deliver the usual knock-out punch — the near sell-out crowd of FBP diehards is not disappointed.

The evening begins with Ilya Kozadayev’s “Molto Espressivo,” a company premiere. Emily Loscocco and Alan Alberto, with their long, lean lines, are perfectly paired for a remarkably fluid pas de deux. Next, Elizabeth Mochizuki and Ilya Burov perform a quicker, more uptempo duet. Though not as clean as Loscocco and Alberto, the latter pair do provide a certain spark. “Espressivo” concludes with both couples nicely mirroring the others’ movements.

Next comes the program’s first of two classical offerings, the “Peasant Pas de Deux” from Giselle. This festive number pairs Brenna DiFrancesco with Ty Parmenter. Initially, DiFrancesco appears a bit nervous, yet Paramenter proves to be a calming and steadying presence. DiFrancesco does loosen up nicely for her solos with a series of crisp chaine turns and pirouettes. Paramentor also impresses with countless cabrioles and double tour en l’airs.

FBP Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric’s “Tender Delusions” brings Mochizuki and Burov together again. This piece is both gentle and passionate, lots of pushing, pulling and grasping, detailing the many ebbs and flows of a relationship. Mochizuki and Burov work well together instilling “Delusions” with its pervading sense of tenderness.

Company member Louisa Chapman’s “Elements,” a FBP premiere, closes out the first half. With the four elements as her muse, Chapman creates some interesting visuals, with some working better than others, but her musical selections, including Vivaldi and Philip Glass, do work very nicely with her choreography.

“Earth,” with dancers stomping and clapping to represent earth sounds (no music accompanies this segment) does not work nearly as well as the other elements. “Water,” with Vilia Putrius and Alberto wearing aqua tights, beautifully projects the weightlessness one feels when moving in water. “Fire,” Parmenter and Harunaga Yamakawa, is all about taking up space, with big jumps and quick turns; the dancers dominate the stage much like a spreading fire would, and this piece emerges as an audience favorite. Finally, “Air” presents some very majestic images, with five female dancers soaring like birds of prey before transforming into trees being tossed about by gusts of wind.

The program’s second half proves to be a bit more provocative, exploring some of human nature’s darker elements.

“Moonlight,” a world premiere by Kozadayev, pairs Kirsten Evans with Alex Lantz. Accompanied by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” Evans and Lantz are mesmerizing. These two just get better and better each time they are paired together, projecting a chemistry that transcends their dancing, which isn’t too bad either. In a trance-like state, Evans captivates, floating through space with Lantz gently assisting — a very touching piece despite its seemingly troubling implications.

Next, Parmenter takes a turn at choreography with “Glauben Sir Mir,” another world premiere. The German title suggests that one needs to trust one’s self. The trio of dancers, Alberto, Vincent Brewer and Tegan Rich, explore the issue of trust. Here, Rich’s facial expressions and angst tell a story wonderfully.

Frequent UCOH contributor Gianni DiMarco presents the evening’s best received piece, the world premiere “Voices in Your Head.” Mindaugas Bauzys trembles with psychophrenia, haunted by Putrius and Evans, who circle and stalk him mouthing unspoken words. At times, they weigh heavily upon him, pressing their bodies against his. Yet, he fights them off, a double tour en l’air and he breaks free, the two sirens recede, begging the question: Was it all just in his head? This is a very haunting yet beautifully danced piece.

Taking a break from the darkness, the dreamy “Chopiniana” follows; this romantic reverie features a poet, surrounded by white-clad sylphs, searching for his ideal. Mochizuki and Alberto, in classical ballet wardrobe, present a simple, yet delightful, pas de deux with Mochizuki moving with an ethereal lightness and grace.

Lastly is critically acclaimed and resident FBP choreographer Viktor Plotnikov’s world premiere “Surrogate.” Accompanied by Sonya Belousova’s techno sounding original score, this thought-provoking piece questions whether we have all become “surrogates,” unable to think and act for ourselves. Wearing tutus, three female dancers are accompanied by their male partners who move them about by grabbing hold of their ponytails.

Throughout the piece, one’s struggle for control and individuality intensifies. Bodies stiffen before falling limp, control always fleeting. And, as has become the norm with Plotnikov’s choreography, there is a disturbing, yet marvelous, aesthetic appeal. One dancer simulates breaking another’s neck, then they warmly embrace. Such conflicting emotions suggest an inert darkness in human nature, a darkness that seems to inspire Plotnikov.

Festival Ballet Providence’s first installment of Up Close On Hope runs through Nov 21. For tickets or more information visit www.festivalballet.com

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