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Cleveland Ballet to Perform Newly Enhanced Version of Ramón Oller’s ‘Coppélia’


Lauren Stenroos and Alfredo “Freddy” Rodriguez rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

By Steve Sucato

Cleveland Ballet closes out perhaps its most successful mainstage season to date with a reprise of their 2016 hit, Ramón Oller’s adaptation of the comic ballet Coppélia. The first full-length ballet production created on the now 5-year-old company returns to Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre for three performances on April 5 & 6.

“It’s very dear to us,” says company artistic director Gladisa Guadalupe.  “When Ramón [Oller] first choreographed the ballet it was on a young company. Now to bring it back four years later, the company is bigger and the dancers are stronger artistically and technically.”

Based on two tales by E. T. A. Hoffmann, the ballet originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon in 1870 to music by composer Léo Delibes, tells the story of eccentric inventor Dr. Coppélius who makes life-size dancing dolls including his beloved Coppélia who he desperately desires to bring to life. Seeing the lifelike doll Franz, a village youth, becomes infatuated with it to the detriment of his relationship with his intended Swanilda. Through a series of humorous encounters the unlikely trio of Franz, Swanilda and Coppélius become entangled in a web of mistaken identity, misdirection and mischievousness that by ballet’s end once again confirms the adage that true love conquers all.

Oller, a native of Esparreguera, Spain, is an award-winning choreographer who has created ballets for Compañía Nacional de Danza, National Ballet of Spain and New York’s Ballet Hispánico. For his 80-minute 2-act adaptation of Coppélia, also set to Delibes’ music, he says he was inspired by the 1966 film El fantástico mundo del doctor Coppelius. For the most part his version follows the traditional Coppélia storyline. Where things differ is in the second act in his revealing more of Dr. Coppélius’ longing for a family of his own and the idea of real versus imagined love. That comes to its pinnacle in an added dream sequence in which Coppélius dances a tender and more contemporary dance duet with Coppélia who imagines briefly comes to life. Oller also swaps the ballet’s conventional folk dances and mazurkas for fast-paced and intricate partnering work showcasing the talents of the company.


Cleveland Ballet dancers rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

Rainer Diaz and Cleveland Ballet dancers rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

A cast of 49 including dancers from the company, apprentices, trainees and students from The School of Cleveland Ballet, will take the stage for this reprise. As a reflection of the aforementioned growth of Cleveland Ballet as a company, Oller has made some changes to improve the production including beefing up sections of the choreography to make them more challenging and exciting, and adding more life-size dolls to second act scenes in Dr. Coppélius’ workshop such as Pierrot and Columbine Dolls and a Duke and Duchess pair.

Reprising their roles from 2016, Oller will once again portray the role of the wizard-like doll maker Dr. Coppélius, Elena Cvetkovich, the Coppélia doll, and Bath-native Lauren Stenroos in the role spirited lead role of Swanilda alongside new partner Alfredo “Freddy” Rodriguez as her love interest Franz.


Lauren Stenroos and Alfredo “Freddy” Rodriguez rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

“Lauren’s evolution as a dancer over the years has been amazing,” says Oller. “She controls the stage.”

And in keeping with Guadalupe’s vision for Cleveland Ballet as being a lean and mobile troupe with a repertory suitable for touring, Oller’s Coppélia will feature minimal sets in favor of tour-friendly lighting effects and images created by nationally known lighting designer Trad A. Burns.

“I love the simplicity of the ballet,” says Oller. “The most important thing is the story and the dance. This production is very alive.”

Cleveland Ballet performs Ramón Oller’s Coppélia, 8 p.m., Friday, April 5 and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 6; Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $25-79 and available by calling (216) 241-6000 or  playhousesquare.org. For group sales: (216) 640-8603. More information at clevelandballet.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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REVIEW: Verb Ballets Celebrates the Life & Legacy of Ian Horvath


(Front to Rear) Kelly Korfhage, Christina Lindhout and Lieneke Matte in Ian Horvath’s Laura’s Women. Photo by Bill Naiman

Verb Ballets – Dance Legacy: Celebrating the Life of Ian Horvath
The Breen Center for the Performing Arts
Cleveland, Ohio

February 9, 2019

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

It’s been nearly three decades since former Cleveland Ballet (predecessor company to the current Cleveland Ballet) co-founder Ian “Ernie” Horvath (1943-1990) lost his battle with AIDS at age 46. The life and career of this Cleveland native who danced with Joffrey Ballet, was chairman of Dance/USA, and was a pioneering advocate for those with AIDS, was honored in Cleveland-based Verb Ballets’ program, Dance Legacy: Celebrating the Life of Ian Horvath. 

The performance featured three dance works, including arguably Horvath’s two best creations, along with excerpts from the upcoming Nel Shelby Productions documentary No Dominion: The Ian Horvath Story.

The program began with a trailer for the documentary that introduced Horvath to those in the audience unfamiliar with him. It also briefly described the evening’s opening dance, Horvath’s “Laura’s Women” (1974).  His earliest and most celebrated work, “Laura’s Women” was inspired by, and set to three songs by, late American singer/songwriter Laura Nyro (1947-1997). The modern dance trio about three differing personalities contained in one woman with a self-destructive past was staged by Verb’s artistic director Dr. Margaret Carlson, a former Cleveland Ballet dancer under Horvath.

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Cleveland Ballet’s Season-Opener Promises to be an Eye-Opener


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Cleveland Ballet’s Nashializ Gomez and Rainer Diaz in Gladisa Guadalupe’s “Provocativo.”

By Steve Sucato

To open its fourth season Cleveland Ballet will take audiences on a journey from a high-flying pirate adventure to a late night Argentinean café awash in the tango of love. The company’s Fall Collection, October 19 & 20 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre, will feature classical, neo-classical and contemporary ballet works including a world-premiere by artistic director Gladisa Guadalupe.

Since its founding in 2014, Cleveland Ballet has grown in size and dancer skill level every year. This season the company takes another leap forward by adding several high-caliber male dancers to its roster. They include Argentinean Luciano Perotto and Cubans Andy Sousa and Alfredo Rodriguez who, along with company veteran Rainer Diaz, may represent the finest male ballet dancer corps Cleveland has seen in over a decade. For the women, the recent departure of company star Luna Sayag is mitigated by the addition of Brooklyn-native Nicole Fedorov, who previously danced with Nevada Ballet, Moscow Classical Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. She joins a strong female corps that includes company veterans Lauren Stenroos, Madison Campbell and Anna Dobbins. They, along with the rest of the company, will take to the stage first Guadalupe’s full-company ballet “Momentum.”

Set to Felix Mendelssohn’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor” performed live by pianist Ralitsa Georgieva Smith, the up-tempo ballet in three movements was inspired by Mendelssohn’s music says Guadalupe.  Seeing a recent rehearsal of the ballet, I found, like the music, the dancing came in vibrant back and forth runs. And while the choreography was fast paced, the dancing retained softness and grace to it.

Next, several of the aforementioned new company dancers will show off their considerable technical skills in excerpts from two ballet classics beginning with the bravura pas de trois from the ballet Le Corsaire (The Pirate) followed by the fiery Spanish pas de deux from Don Quixote.

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Cleveland Ballet’s Alfredo Rodriguez and Elena Cvetkovich in Gladisa Guadalupe’s “Provocativo.”

The program will then shift gears from classical ballet fireworks to late night seduction in the form of Guadalupe’s new 25-minute ballet “Provocativo.” Set in an Argentinean café where love and lust permeate the air and danced to the music of Astor Piazzolla performed live by a quintet of musicians including bandoneonist Julien Labro, bassist Dan Finn and Russian tenor Mikhail Urusov, the ballet seeks to capture the desirous attitude of tango without being a tango piece.

Inspired by her memories of being in such a café in Argentina while on tour as a young professional dancer, Guadalupe has populated this café with a cast of colorful characters including a wealthy socialite, an painter, a Casanova and woman dreaming of her lost lover. In watching Cleveland Ballet’s dancers in a rehearsal of the jazz and tango infused contemporary ballet work, I found it to be a playfully evocative and entertaining ballet.

For those still unfamiliar with the new Cleveland Ballet, the company’s Fall Collection program may just be the introduction needed to make you a fan of this company on the rise.

Cleveland Ballet performs Fall Collection, 8 p.m., Friday, October 19 and 1 p.m. & 7 p.m., Saturday, October 20; Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre, 1511 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland. Tickets are $25-79. Also available on October 21 is a Ballet & Brunch Package at $41 that includes a pre-show brunch at Playhouse Square’s RJF Presidents’ Club starting at 11 a.m. followed by the 1p.m. performance. For tickets, visit playhousesquare.org or call (800) 801-7407. More information at clevelandballet.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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