Category Archives: Dance Reviews 2018

Neglia Ballet Artists’ Star-Studded Spring Gala Dazzled with Great Performances [REVIEW]


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Colorado Ballet’s Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos in Amy Seiwert’s “Traveling Alone”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Neglia Ballet Artists – Spring Gala
Nichols Flickinger Performing Arts Center
Buffalo, NY
May 10, 2018

By Steve Sucato

Buffalo’s premiere evening of dance each year, Neglia Ballet Artists’ 2018 Spring Gala was a smorgasbord of top flight dancing well worth the price of admission.  Once again NBA artistic director Sergio Neglia and executive director Heidi Halt culled together a stellar line-up of guest artists and dance works worthy of a professional dance company many times NBA’s size.

The program opened however with a solo variation from the ballet Raymonda by one of Neglia Conservatory’s own rising stars, Maggie Weatherdon.  The statuesque teenager from Grimsby, Ontario, despite some nerves, showed control in her technique and footwork on pointe in the briskly-paced solo.

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Neglia Conservatory dancer Maggie Weatherdon in a variation from “Raymonda”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

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Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys in Paul Meija’s “Romanza Andaluza”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Next, frequent guest dancers, husband and wife team Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys, performed former New York City Ballet principal dancer Paul Meija’s pas de deux “Romanza Andaluza” to violin music by Pablo de Saraste.

The look of the pas de deux spoke of a matador and a señorita, while the close-quarter classical choreography evoked the feel of the “White Swan” pas de deux from Swan Lake.  Arms raised high over her head Putrius spun in and out of Bauzys’ arms and was lifted over his head in arabesque positions that had her lovingly looking down on him.  Both dancers radiated star quality in their dancing that combined grace and technical prowess.

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Neglia Conservatory’s Stephanie Waite in Victor Smalley’s “Under Her Skin”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

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Colorado Ballet’s Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos in the balcony scene pas de deux from “Romeo and Juliet” Photo by Gene Witkowski.

After the contemporary dance solo “Under Her Skin” by Victor Smalley danced by Neglia Conservatory student Stephanie Waite, Colorado Ballet principal dancers Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos performed the balcony scene pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet with choreography by former English National Ballet artistic director Derek Deane.  One of the more emotionally rich choreographic versions of the ballet, Deane’s passionate choreography fit perfectly on the girlishly giddy Benton as Juliet and the dashing Ramos as Romeo. Sweeping runs into each other’s arms, soaring lifts and dizzying turn sequences left one believing in the pair’s over-the-moon young love.

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Dancers Eun-Kyung Chug (front) and Seyong Kim in Takehiro Ueyama’s “PUNG-GYEONG: Landscape”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

The program then switched gears stylistically in choreographer Takehiro Ueyama’s contemporary dance work “PUNG-GYEONG: Landscape” performed by former Seoul Ballet Theater principal dancer Eun-Kyung Chug and former Metropolitan Opera Ballet dancer Seyong Kim.  Performed to a piano score by Johann Sebastian Bach, the gestural and calisthenic–like choreography for the pair appeared to outline a relationship between them that was fond yet distant.  The veteran pair danced solidly in the somewhat  unremarkable piece.

Weatherdon, who placed 1st in the Senior Contemporary Division at the 2018 Youth America Grand Prix dance competition, then returned to the stage this time in the  contemporary dance solo “Integer” by award-winning choreographer Viktor Plotnikov. Dancing to music by Zoe Keating, the rangy teen sliced through the air in fluid, angular dance moves that showed off her facility a dancer and gave a glimpse of her vast potential as a dance artist.

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Neglia Conservatory dancer Viktor Plotnikov’s “Integer”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Waite then took the stage in another solo, this time a variation from the ballet La Bayadere to music by Ludwig Minkus.  While Waite powered through the technically challenging solo with relative ease, her performance felt a bit flat and lacked personality.

Next, Benton and Ramos took another turn on stage in an excerpt from Sacramento Ballet artistic director Amy Seiwart’s “Traveling Alone”.  The contemporary ballet pas de deux set to music by Max Richter had everything the earlier “PUNG-GYEONG: Landscape” lacked.  Seiwert’s captivating choreography was well-crafted, emotional,  and the chemistry and relationship between Benton and Ramos was anything but distant.  The pair had an ease to their dancing with Benton floating along in buoyant lifts and in dreamy turns on pointe.

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Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys in Putrius’ “Avere”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

Putrius and Bauzys also came back for an encore in Putrius’ “Avere”.  Danced to music by Baroque Italian composer Giulio Caccini, the heartfelt contemporary ballet pas de deux swirled with graceful spins and tender embraces with only a modicum of clunky choreographic moments. One being Putrius lying on her back and walking her feet up the side of Bauzys’ body and then waiting for him, legs hovering in the air, to complete a solo dance phrase before walking them down again which served to briefly interrupt the sensual flow of the duet.  That being said, the pair’s dancing was fabulous as always.

Brilliance continued in arguably the best performance of the evening, Tulsa Ballet soloists Jennifer Grace and Joshua Stayton dancing an excerpt from Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong’s “Glass Pieces”.

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Tulsa Ballet’s Jennifer Grace and Joshua Stayton Ma Cong’s “Glass Pieces”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

The exquisite lover’s pas de deux to music by Philip Glass unfolded with Grace (a perfect moniker for her dancing) twisting about on the stage floor before Stayton engaged her reposed body, causing her to arch her back and flutter one leg from the sensation.  The pair then deftly moved through a sequence of picture-perfect balletic poses that riveted one’s attention squarely on them.  Both Grace and Stayton were razor sharp in their dancing and left the audience mesmerized and breathless.

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Michele Costa and Sergio Neglia in Viktor Plotnikov’s “La Vida”. Photo by Gene Witkowski.

The bountiful program concluded with an encore performance from 2017 of Plotinikov’s “La Vida,” a work loosely based on NBA artistic director Sergio Neglia’s life and family. The work traces Neglia’s feelings in losing and missing his fatherArgentinian ballet star Jose Neglia who tragically died in a plane crash in 1971 when Sergio was young. In it, Eun-Kyung Chung portrayed Neglia’s grieving mother, Sergio, his younger self and a puppet controlled by Michele Costa represented the memory of Jose.  The very personal work was playful and charming at times, poignant and memorable.

Neglia Ballet Artists perform their 20th Anniversary Spring Gala, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, 2019. Nichols Flickinger Performing Arts Center, 1250 Amherst Street, Buffalo. Tickets are $25/student, $75/general ($80 at door) & $100/patron and are available at http://negliaballet.org/gala/

Featured performances by:

Emily Bromberg & Ariel Rose  (Miami City Ballet)
– Former Neglia Conservatory student Adelaide Clauss & Tamas Krizsa (Washington Ballet)
– Vilia Putrius & Mindaugas Bauzys formerly of Festival Ballet in Providence
Sergio Neglia, Sherri Campagni, puppeteer Michele Costa and actor Nico Neglia in a new ballet inspired by Mozart and Salieri and choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov
– Current Neglia Conservatory Pre-Professional students Ava DiNicola, Adrien Malof, and Maggie Weatherdon

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Multiplicity’ Program brings together all of Bodiography’s Sister Companies


Christen Weimer’s “Mother’s Little Helper”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet – Multiplicity
Byham Theater
Pittsburgh, PA
November 17, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

After a 3-year hiatus Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s longest running dance series Multiplicity returned to Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater on November 17 with its usual cavalcade of repertory works by current and former company members. What made this iteration of Multiplicity different from prior programs was that the works were for the first time performed by all three of the organization’s sister troupes: Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, BCB Charlotte and BCB3.

The program kicked off with Amanda Fisher’s re-envisioned “Pizzicato” (2018), a 7-minute work danced to upbeat music by The Piano Guys featuring eight of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s dancers in crimson dresses. A reaction to the mood of the music, Fisher’s choreography, while resembling stylized ballet classroom exercises, was slightly seductive and aesthetically pleasing.  Highlighting the piece, and Multiplicity overall, was standout dancer Nicole Jamison who has fast become a star for the company.


Amanda Fisher’s “Pizzicato”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Maria Caruso’s “Valley of Her”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Next, BCB3, a troupe of retired Bodiography dancers performed artistic director Maria Caruso’s latest effort “Valley of Her”. The 13 ½ minute piece in four sections was danced to music by Pittsburgh indie folk band Ryan Hoffman and the Pioneers that began with a brief solo sung by dancer Michaelina McGee before she joined her fellow BCB3 performers. Caruso’s choreography for the all-female cast of eight appeared measured and focused predominantly on shape and line. The women partnered each other in lifts and sculptural poses. Although choreographically simplistic looking, the work, thanks in large part to the band’s music, had a certain allure to it.

After choreographer Christen Weimer’s body image-themed “Mother’s Little Helper” (2018) for Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s dancers, company trainees Josef Hartman and Renee Simeone shone  in a reprise of Andrea Levick’s powerful duet “Retorque” (2018). An emerging talent, Levick showed a level of maturity as a choreographer in her movement choices for the duet performed to music by Glass Animals. That was especially evident in sections of the work where the dancers engaged in expressive solo riffs and partnered dancing that mixed hip hop and contemporary dance styles.



Andrea Levick’s “Retorque”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

The program’s first half concluded with perhaps the best work of the evening, Caruso’s “Journey” (2008). Set to music by Philip Glass, the seasoned trio of Amanda Fisher, Melissa Tyler and Jamison were lovely in Caruso’s sharp and musical contemporary ballet choreography. The ballet was Caruso at her creative best.

The program’s second half opened with an homage to the struggles of young mothers, Caruso’s “Really?!” for BCB Charlotte dancers (plus Jamison). Set to music by Kansas City’s Quixotic, the 7-minute piece was a bit “Fosse” meets “frustrated mom” pantomime that offered little to be engaged with.

Maria Caruso’s “Really?!”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Next, Jamison took on the role of choreographer for her fellow Bodiography Contemporary Ballet dancers. Her piece “Curdle” (2018), danced to music by Ezio Bosso, Nils Frahm, and Yann Tiersen , portrayed “the dissolution of an ideal.” Lively and gestural with the dancers engaging in arm movements that landed behind their heads and them tapping their fingers on the stage floor, the work proved interesting in parts.

A vehicle for BCB Charlotte’s quartet of dancers to don sultry and sexy demeanors, Caruso’s “Runaway Runway” (2018) cast the group as runway models in a cat walk driven jaunt. Given BCB Charlotte dancers’ mature, engaging stage presence as skilled performers, it would have been great to see the group in a dance work with some real substance and meaty choreography. Both “Really?!” and “Runaway Runway” fell short in doing that.

Maria Caruso’s “Runaway Runway”. Photo by Eric Rosé.
Maria Caruso’s “Submerged”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Rounding out the program were Kristie Corso’s “Cliff’s Edge” (2018) for the main company about how life’s stresses and setbacks can adversely affect relationships with those we most care about, and a reprise Caruso’s “Submerged” (2018), a ballet inspired by 2018 Academy Award Best Picture-winner The Shape of Water, that had Bodiography’s dancers swimming through a mesmerizing succession of dance phrases that together were a solid closer to an up and down program.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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Ballet Hispánico’s All-Female Choreographers Program Struck All The Right Chords


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Ballet Hispánico in Tania Pérez-Salas’ “3. Catorce Dieciséis”. Photo by Paula Lobo.

Ballet Hispánico

Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre

Cleveland, OH

November 10-11, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Co-presented by DANCECleveland and Cuyahoga Community College, Ballet Hispánico’s triple-bill of works by Hispanic female choreographers struck all the right chords Saturday, November 10 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre.

The New York-based company, last in Cleveland in 2009, showed its versatility and popular appeal beginning with Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Sombrerísimo” (2013) performed for the first time by an all-female cast.

Set to a soundscape that included howling winds, creaking doors and dogs barking along with music by Italian folk group Banda Ionica, Ballet Hispánico’s sextet of women made the work, usually performed by an all-male cast, their own. In doing so however, they also made it a noticeably different work.

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René Magritte’s “Son of Man”.

Performed by Ballet Hispánico in nearby Akron at the 2014 Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival with an all-male cast, the women Saturday night essentially danced the same choreography as the men but gone was the machismo and swagger that defined that original version. That was replaced by an alternate beauty and fierceness that the women brought to the piece.

Sporting bowler hats they flipped and tossed about throughout the work, the women were energized and technically clean in performing Ochoa’s somewhat acrobatic choreography.  Evoking surrealist imagery from Belgian artist René Magritte’s bowler hat paintings, Ochoa also infused a bit of humor into the work. In one scene, all of the women’s hats were piled high onto the head of one of the dancers who comically collapsed under their weight while another struggled mightily to drag her prostrate body off stage.

While “Sombrerísimo” felt like a different work than the original, the all-female version proved a gratifying opener to a program that celebrated women as dancers and choreographers.

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Ballet Hispánico in Michelle Manzanales’ “Con Brazos Abiertos”. Photo by Paula Lobo.

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Ballet Hispánico in Michelle Manzanales’ “Con Brazos Abiertos”. Photo by Paula Lobo.

Next, Michelle Manzanales’ “Con Brazos Abiertos” (2017) also used humor but this time to disguise pain.  The Mexican-American choreographer created an entertaining and poignant work about multi-cultural acceptance that was inspired in-part by New York poet Maria Billini-Padilla’s heartfelt poem Con Brazos Abiertos.

Danced to an eclectic mix of music from Julio Iglesias and a rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep” to recorded film dialogue, the work for over a dozen dancers followed a central female figure danced by Melissa Fernandez who, while a part of both Mexican and American cultures, felt like, or was made to feel like an outsider.

Delivered in alternating dance sections that showcased Mexican folkloric themes and contemporary dancing, all was not as it seemed in many of them. For instance, in a festive section with all the dancers donning sombreros, Manzanales had the dancers angle their heads as to appear if the hats were atop headless bodies.  This perhaps speaking to a feeling of being anonymous or perhaps playing into the stereotypical insult of members of an ethnic group all looking the same. It was a powerful statement. So too was an audio clip from 1980’s Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie of Cheech Marin singing “Mexican Americans love education so they go to night school and take Spanish and get a B”.  A self-deprecating bit of humor many in the audience laughed at, but the reference was also twinged with sadness as was Edward James Olmos recorded dialogue from the 1997 movie Selena saying, “We have to be more Mexican than Mexicans and more American than Americans.”

With “Con Brazos Abiertos,” Manzanales walked that fine line between audience-pleasing entertainment and social commentary brilliantly, delivering on both counts.

The program closed with Mexican choreographer Tania Pérez-Salas’ gem “3. Catorce Dieciséis” (2017).  A reference to “Pi” (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter), the work, in the program notes, is said to reflect on the “circularity of movement through life.”

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Ballet Hispánico in Tania Pérez-Salas’ “3. Catorce Dieciséis”. Photo by Paula Lobo.

Set to music by Vivaldi and other Baroque composers, “3. Catorce Dieciséis” opened on five men and two women in white dancing stylized contemporary dance movement to harpsichord music. With dark atmospheric lighting and an approach akin to a dance piece one might see by Dutch giants Nederlands Dans Theater, the work had a sophistication and quality to it quite unlike the others on the program.

The visually stunning work also contained more than a few surprises in it like a section where two women in long black dresses (one in front of the other) began a unison dance in which a hidden dancer behind each of them reached around women to instantly tear off their black dresses revealing a red one underneath. The gasp-worthy effect was one highlight in a work chock full of memorable moments including an angelic scene of a trio of women that appeared heaven sent.

Throughout, Pérez-Salas’ technically rich choreography big on line, had the dancers moving through a variety of turns, jumps and floor work that brought beauty and mystery to the piece that bordered on genius.

Next on DANCECleveland’s 63rd season is Beijing Dance Theater, Saturday, February 2 and Sunday, February 3 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre. For information and tickets visit dancecleveland.org.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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