With the holidays and countless productions of The Nutcracker around the corner, you can still catch the first installment of Festival Ballet Providence’s popular Up Close On Hope, an original series combining contemporary and classical dance in the company’s intimate Black Box Theatre. The program includes two world premieres and four company premieres.
The performance begins with excerpts from Balanchine’s masterpiece Agon. This groundbreaking ballet highlights the collaborative efforts between choreographer and composer with Balanchine and composer Igor Stravinsky working together as the piece developed.
Embracing NY modernism, with legs turned-in and feet flexed, this ballet, as does most of Balanchine’s work, challenges a dancer’s technical and cardiovascular threshold. During the first pas de trois, Ian Matysiak, now a true company veteran, continues to impress; Balanchine’s style seems well suited for him. Projecting the strength required of Balanchine’s choreography, Matysiak also has a softness that rounds out and finishes the movements.
In the second pas de trios, Emily Loscocco captivates with long, elegant lines and beautiful arabesques. Ilya Burov and Harungaga Yamakawa exhibit great athleticism and control during a series jumps and pirouettes.
Former company member Mark Harrootian stirs things up next with The Daily Grind, the first of two world premieres. Set to the lively music of Antonio Vivaldi, it depicts the monotony of everyday life.
With dancers wearing matching shirts and ties, it begins like one of those flash mob dance videos on YouTube where people waiting for a bus or train suddenly break out in dance. Later in the piece, Elizabeth Mochizuki and Vincent Brewer cleverly incorporate a sweater into a creative and fluid pas de deux.
Inspired by gypsy dancing in Yugoslavian taverns, George Birkadze’s Tzigani, another world premiere, follows. Mixing contemporary dance with tangos and character dance, this piece has a mysterious and seductive quality executed to perfection with Jennifer Ricci’s expressive yet indifferent stare and flickering hand – dismissing potential suitors – and Loscocco’s tempting smile.
The pas de deux from Petipa’s Le Corsaire closes out the first half. Ruth Whitney and Alan Alberto deliver some exquisite partnering, highlighted by several breathtaking overhead lifts. Whitney continues to look more and more comfortable at FBP with a near flawless solo variation and some remarkable fouette turns during coda.
The second half opens with Pieta. Based on Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys are absolutely stunning, delivering a powerful and emotional performance. Dressed all in white, they move like two ghostly apparitions with Putrius’ long white gown flowing behind her. The simplicity of the choreography gives this piece weight, while each movement and pose provides astonishing visual imagery.
Next, Birkadze injects some much needed levity with the company premiere of Heaven Can Wait. Set to the music of Ray Charles, this energetic number depicts the playful and competitive nature of three boys simply showing off. Burov, Matysiak and Alex Lantz are great fun with gravity defying leaps and countless turns punctuated by Burov’s dizzying grande pirouettes.
New FBP choreographer Joseph Morrissey presents the company premiere of In Passing. Utilizing two couples, Whitney and Alberto, Loscocco and Yamakawa, it portrays how two couples maintain a comfortable distance from each other while occasionally crossing paths – “in passing.” With winding arms and intricate head and arm movements, the dancers maintain a wonderful synchronicity and musicality.
Tea Time, resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov’s latest contribution, takes a hilarious, nonsensical poke at “high society.” Six dancers, wearing long purple gowns, assemble for afternoon tea. What follows is laugh out loud choreography with Plotnikov brilliantly employing some common stereotypes of the catty, chattering class.
Kara Gentile is priceless as the maid with her squat-like walk holding her gown out in front of her as she navigates her way through the women as they gesticulate wildly and flutter about like cackling hens. Next they march about with heads bobbing in a rooster-like fashion. Then, in a remarkably ingenious touch, they simulate horseback riding while holding imaginary tea cups. This is one piece you have to see to truly appreciate.
The program closes with Boyko Dossev’s Love Song, another company premiere. Dossev, from Boston Ballet, is a frequent UCOH contributor. FBP artistic director explains he chose to the end the evening with this piece because “it all begins and ends with love.”
Pairing Whitney and Alberto yet again, this charming pas de deux is set to the whimsical music of Jacques Brel. It employs, as much of Dossev’s choreography does, some creative partnering. At one point, Whitney runs up Alberto’s side into a shoulder sit. Later, he does a handstand, gently collapsing onto her lap. Overall, this is a very sweet number with the couple nicely conveying a passionate yearning for each other.
For tickets of more information, visit: www.festivalballet.com or call 401-353-1129.