Tag Archives: Rossen Milanov

Charlotte Ballet-Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Collaboration Pays Tribute to Beloved Institution Dance Makers


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Charlotte Ballet’s Chelsea Dumas and Juwan Alston with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in Mark Diamond’s “Scherzo”. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

Charlotte Ballet w/Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra
Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater
Chautauqua, NY
July 5, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Call it a tribute program for the two men responsible for much of the dance works created and performed by Charlotte Ballet over the past half dozen years during its annual summer residencies New York’s Chautauqua Institution.

For Charlotte Ballet II program director Mark Diamond, the performance recognized his 30-years as part of the Chautauqua family in the capacity of dance educator at the Chautauqua School of Dance and as a dance maker. For Charlotte Ballet resident choreographer, Sasha Janes — who began his Chautauqua run decades ago as a dancer with Charlotte Ballet (then known as North Carolina Dance Theatre) — the program was an affirmation of the Australian-native’s talents and the many works of his enjoyed by Chautauqua dance audiences over the years.

The program began with members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in the unusual position of standing onstage (all except two cellists) in a barbershop quartet-like formation performing the “Pezzo in forma di Sonatina (Movement 1)” from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C major, op. 48.

Famous for being a part of the soundtrack to the George Balanchine ballet classic Serenade, the mere use of the music, although played quite beautifully by the CSO under the direction of Rossen Milanov, left one pining for Charlotte Ballet’s dancers to suddenly emerge to dance the Balanchine ballet, even if only the one section of it.  Alas, it was not to be.

Next, with the CSO relocated to the Amphitheater’s new orchestra pit, they joined Charlotte Ballet’s dancers in a reprise of Diamond’s ballet Scherzo, set to the second movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor op. 125.

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Charlotte Ballet and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra perform Mark Diamond’s “Scherzo”. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

One of Diamond’s more celebrated group works for the company, the contemporary/neo-classical ballet was filled with the hallmarks of many of Diamond’s works, a mishmash of movement styles and disparate dance movement, some inspired, and some leaving one scratching their head as to their inclusion. But as in many of his works, you get the sense in his choreography that Diamond really cares about each dancer onstage making a contribution.

Scherzo opened with veteran dancer Alessandra Ball James in spotlight dancing a quirky solo that vacillated between sleek beauty and somewhat odd ball dance moves. Although the company is unranked, James certainly qualifies as one of its prima ballerinas for her regality, power, technical prowess and theatrical presence onstage.

Diamond’s non-narrative and seemingly non-stop ballet then continued with its cast of eleven dancers (including three from the School of Dance) moving through a litany of dance phrases in various dancer configurations that was as engaging as it was at times uniquely unusual. In the end, the ballet and the dancers’ performance of it, proved satisfying. It was a fine tribute to an artist whose contributions to the Chautauqua Institution, its dance program, and Charlotte Ballet’s summer residencies there, has been invaluable.

The program closed with Janes’ 2015 ballet, The Four Seasons.  Set to Vivaldi’s score of the same name, Janes’ packed the ballet with energetic choreography to match the breadth of the score’s dynamic range. It led off with “Spring,” a section filled with fast-paced, flirty contemporary ballet choreography performed by eight dancers in various configurations throughout.

“Summer” came next with the trio of Peter Mazurowski, Chelsea Dumas and Ben Ingel in what looked to be a love triangle relationship. The dancers engaged in presentational movement that showed off their considerable technique, line, and extension. Highlighting the section was a short bravura solo danced by Mazurowski packed with leaps and jumps.

The ballet’s “Autumn” section with its dancers in pumpkin-colored costumes followed and had a courtly feel to it. At the center of the action was dancer Elizabeth Truell who was partnered by two male dancers who lifted and twisted her in the air but not without some difficulty at times.

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Charlotte Ballet dancers Colby Foss and Alessandra Ball James perform in the “Autumn” section of Sasha Janes’ ballet “The Four Seasons” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

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Charlotte Ballet dancers including Raven Barkley (front) perform in the “Winter” section of Sasha Janes’ ballet “The Four Seasons” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

Janes’ saved The Four Seasons’ showstopper choreography for last. Dancer Raven Barkley, who was named as one of Dance Magazine’s coveted “25 to Watch” dance artists for 2018, emerged from darkness into spotlight wearing a  flowing white robe as the music from Vivaldi’s “Winter” section began building.  Looking formidable, Barkley in tandem with a bold change in the music then lit into an elegant and bendy solo littered with rapid-fire leaps and turns. Afterward she was joined by a large corps of shirtless male dancers who along with her began a stirring unison dance phrase that saw the athletic Barkley match the men jump for jump.

For its part in the joint program, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performed well, although being in the pit in an open air venue for most of it noticeably took away a level of volume and impact to the music; a failing that will need to be addressed in future.

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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Filed under Dance Reviews 2018

Landmark Production One for the Ages


Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

BalletMet Columbus, Opera Columbus and Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Chorus – Twisted: A Trio of Excellence
Ohio Theatre
Columbus, Ohio
September 25-28, 2014

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

It’s a wonderful thing when what sounds good in theory is even better in real life. Such was the case in the landmark collaboration Twisted: A Trio of Excellence featuring BalletMet Columbus, Opera Columbus and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and chorus, September 27 at Columbus’ historic Ohio Theatre.

The world-premiere production combining dance, music and song proved to be the perfect meshing of all three with top-shelf performances by all involved.

Collaborations like these can be difficult to successfully mount for many reasons. Conflicting personalities, lack of artistic cohesion between the groups and production formatting that favors a singular discipline to the detriment of the others can sink a collaboration leaving the finished product uneven and uninteresting.  Fortunately, Twisted avoided those potential pitfalls and raised the bar on such collaborations with a stellar collection of truly artful moments. Mounting such an ambitious program, a rarity in Columbus, may have also been pushed along by the fact that all three organizations recently came under new artistic leadership (Edwaard Liang at BalletMet, Rossen Milanov at Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Peggy Kriha Dye at Opera Columbus), all of whom seem to be on board with taking artistic risks.

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

The program, hosted by the self-deprecating and amiable Christopher Purdy of WOSU-Classical 101, began with the Columbus Symphony, conducted by Peter Stafford Wilson, in the brooding “Prelude” to Act III from Wagner’s Lohengrin. The mood then quickly shifted to effervescent humor as an all-male cast of eleven BalletMet dancers along with Opera Columbus vocalist Justin Ryan joined the orchestra in Rossini’s “Largo al factotum” from The Barber of Seville. Dancing in humorously creative choreography by Val Caniparoli, BalletMet’s dancers costumed in dress shirts, pants and suit coats used their coats as both costume and prop; pulling them up onto their heads like hoods and pretending to fly around the stage like airplanes. The clownish but well-crafted mayhem had the dancers using the coats as capes and blankets to hide under while Ryan belted out “Figaro! Figaro!”.

The nine sections of the program’s first act continued with more from Caniparoli to music by Puccini and choreographer Ma Cong in a ballet to music by Mozart. It was however, BalletMet’s own Jimmy Orrante’s choreography for five dancers performed to the Met Opera-like quality singing of Opera Columbus’ Melisa Bonetti and Jennifer Cherest and the playing of the Symphony in Delibes’ “Viens, Mallika,…Dõme épais le jasmin” from Lakmé  that cemented the program as one for the ages.  Orrante’s delicate, feathery movement for the dancers perfectly complemented the angelic voices of Bonetti and Cherest resulting in a contrivance of beauty that caressed the senses.

After two more sections to music by Puccini and Mozart and some narration and shtick by Purdy, Orrante once again treated the audience to another bit of cleverness performed to Rossini’s “é lei: che gioja é questa!…Siete voi” from Cenerentola.  In the vignette, vocalists Bonetti, Cherest, Katherine Rohrer, Clay Hilley and Robert Kerr were paired with dancers Bethany Lee, Samantha Lewis, Courtney Muscroft, Andres Estevez, Jackson Prescott Sarver and Michael Sayre who acted in part as their dancing shadows. The singers enunciated each syllable of each word they sang in a syncopated manner while the dancers mimicked them and engaged in gestural and playful dancing.

Orrante has shown in his works for BalletMet that he has a talent for creating sophisticated, musically illustrative choreography that fits well on the company’s dancers and easily connects with audiences.

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

The program’s first act concluded with Liang’s choreography in Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 – Aria (Cantilena)” which told of a siren who seduces her prey through song.  Cherest, as the siren entranced dancer David Ward as a group of fourteen dancers swept through Liang’s bold and dramatic choreography.  The rousing dance concluded with Cherest appearing to pull a red scarf from Ward’s mouth as if pulling the life from his body as he collapsed to the floor.

Twisted’s second act continued the program’s entertaining and appealing mix of music, song and dance with eight more sections beginning with another Caniparoli choreographed ballet performed to Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes No. 4 Storm” from Peter Grimes.  The ballet, sans vocalists, featured a dozen BalletMet dancers along with lead couple, and new BalletMet power pairing, Ward and former Colorado Ballet soloist Caitlin Valentine-Ellis.  Ward, who seemingly was featured in just about every section, exuded a strong presence partnering the petite, technically adroit Valentine-Ellis.  The pair along with the rest of the dancers shone in Caniparoli’s engaging choreography.

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

Other memorable moments included:  the CSO along with the Columbus Symphony Chorus in Verdi’s “The Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore;  dancer Adrienne Benz partnered by four male dancers in a Cong choreographed ballet set to Bizet’s “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” from Carmen; and dancers Ward and Muscroft along with vocalists Bonetti and Hilley in Orrante’s rendition of Saint-Saens  “Mon couer s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson and Delilah, in which the leggy Muscroft en pointe in bourrée (small, quick, even steps) circled a scarfed Bonetti , unwrapping the scarf with each pass onto herself.

The sensational program concluded with Boito’s “Finale” from Act III from Mefistofoles. The Liang choreographed ballet included the entire triumphant cast of over 100 onstage dancing, singing and playing in a rousing spectacle ending which gold confetti raining down on them as the audience rose for a well-deserved standing ovation.

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

Photo by Jenifer Zmuda

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Filed under Dance Reviews 2014