Tag Archives: Playhouse Square

Ailey Magic Returns to Playhouse Square [REVIEW]


AAADT in Jessica Langs EN. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jessica Lang’s “EN”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Playhouse Square’s KeyBank State Theatre
Cleveland, Ohio
April 27, 2019
 

By Steve Sucato

The return of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Northeast, Ohio is always a hotly anticipated event. The company’s 60th anniversary tour performances this past weekend (April 26-28) at Playhouse Square’s KeyBank State Theatre in Cleveland rewarded that anticipation with memorable works and dancing.

Presented by Playhouse Square in partnership with DANCECleveland to close out its 2018-19 dance season, Ailey’s program on Saturday, April 27 featured the Cleveland premieres of works by choreographer Jessica Lang, company artistic director Robert Battle, Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts and Alvin Ailey’s iconic “Revelations”.

The program opened with Lang’s dreamy ballet “EN” (2018) to an original score by NYC-based Polish composer Jakub Ciupinski. The ballet’s title is taken from a Japanese word with multiple meanings including circle, destiny, fate or karma. Lang says of the 21-minute piece, it “reflects on the universal experience of coming full circle and, as time passes, we recognize the people we meet along life’s journey who play a part in the fate and destiny of our lives.”

Those sentiments were driven home in Lang’s varied paced choreography that played into those notions of time passing and the circularity of life, offering up moments of motion with the feel of drifting sand and those tinged with idealism. Adding to that, the minimalist stage setting by Lang and lighting designer Nicole Pearce of a color-changing circular disc at the rear of the stage representing the sun and an overhead illuminated globe representing the moon (that was raised and lowered) both symbolized the passage of time from day to night and back.

AAADT in Jessica Langs EN. Photo by Paul Kolnik2

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jessica Lang’s “EN”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

AAADT in Jessica Langs EN. Photo by Paul Kolnik3

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jessica Lang’s “EN”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

An ensemble of 13 dancers led by Roberts costumed all in white moved through athletic choreography that melded together ballet, modern and jazz movements. The dancers came together in various groupings, formed circles and rendered a sequence of thematic poses and tableaus across the stage. At one point a group of dancers lifted and repeatedly tossed a female dancer in the air like a cheerleader.

Well-known to Northeast, Ohio-area audiences for her works performed by her now defunct company Jessica Lang Dance on DANCECleveland’s 2014 and 2017 seasons, “EN,” her debut ballet for the company, further stretched Ailey’s repertory range along with audience expectations of the types of works the company presents.

Next, Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary” (2017) proved an impressive debut work for the company by the fledgling choreographer.  Danced to jazz music by John Coltrane, the 24-minute contemporary/modern work for 10 dancers was inspired by his watching disturbing world events on CNN that conjured the feelings of “having the blues”.  Titled after a 1968 Max Roach album and a Negro spiritual of the same name, the work says Roberts uses “the dancing body to inspire the audience, allowing them to transcend their own personal blues momentarily.”

AAADT in Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

AAADT in Jamar Roberts Members Dont Get Weary. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Roberts’ idiosyncratic movement language was bold, fresh and inspiring to watch. The work began with the dancers in large-brimmed, disc-shaped straw hats that seemed to suggest the toiling of field hands. The dancers’ faces often obscured by the hats, moved through illustrative choreography and some imagery a la “Revelations” that spoke of a harsh existence.  As the work progressed the dancers removed the hats and the mood of the piece, along with Coltrane’s expansive music, began to spark optimism.  Danced beautifully from beginning to end, the piece was highlighted by a lively male quartet in which dancer Jacqueline Green chimed in with a marvelous solo full of abandon and grace.

AAADTs Jacqueline Green in Jamar Roberts Members Dont Get Weary Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jacqueline Green in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

AAADTs Ghrai DeVore _ Jeroboam Bozeman in Jamar Roberts Members Dont Get Weary Photo by Paul KolnikCrop

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Ghrai DeVore (front) and Jeroboam Bozeman in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Also of note was a lover’s duet by dancers Jeroboam Bozeman and Ghrai DeVore in which the pair exchanged desperate embraces, one in which DeVore pulled down the top of Bozeman’s blue jumpsuit to reveal his bare chest. The duet ended with a downtrodden DeVore slumped on the stage floor with her back to the audience as the rest of the cast returned to the stage. DeVore’s brilliance in the role left a lasting impression.

Battle’s 2016 work “Ella” was then performed in its original form as a solo instead of the now more commonly seen male/female duet. The comedic piece was danced by Chalvar Monteiro to a live recording of Fitzgerald’s song “Airmail Special.” In it, Fitzgerald’s nonsensical jazz scatting that included lines from the songs the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” and “That’s Amore,” was matched in quirky, fun-loving playfulness by Monteiro who mugged and hammed it up for the appreciative audience.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Aileys Revelations. Photo by Paul Kolnik 13

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Alvin_Ailey_American_Dance_Theater_in_Alvin_Ailey_s_Revelations._Photo_by_James_R._Brantley_01

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”. Photo by James R. Brantley.

“Ella” proved a delectable appetizer for the closing meal that was Ailey’s “Revelations.” THE signature work of the company performed on almost all of their programs, “Revelations” is one of dance’s most beloved masterpieces. Volumes have been written on it leaving critics like myself with nothing more to say than perhaps comparing casts who have performed it since its debut in 1960.  Suffice it to say of the dozen times I have seen the work over the past few decades, this current cast acquitted themselves very nicely to the delight of all present.

Alvin Ailey Spring Gala 2018

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”. Photo by Donna Ward.

Check out DANCECleveland’s 2019-2020 season offerings at dancecleveland.org  And if you unfortunately missed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s performances this weekend or would like to see them again, the company will be performing in nearby Pittsburgh on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at the Benedum Center.

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Reviews 2019, DANCECleveland

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Airings

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


3. Catorce Dieciséis (c) Paula Lobo (1000x665)

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.

sonof

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.

Con Brazos Abiertos (c) Paula Lobo (3) (1000x666)

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

Con Brazos Abiertos (c) Paula Lobo (1000x665)

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.”

3. Catorce Dieciséis (c) Paula Lobo (3) (1000x666)

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Reviews 2018