Thursday, October 25, 2012


Margo Sappington, choreographer of  "Cobras in the Moonlight."
Photo c. by Nancy Condit

By Nancy Condit

Artistic director director Robert Mills chose three of his favorite ballets to start his fifth season with the Oklahoma City Ballet last Saturday night at the Civic Center Music Hall. The audience was half its usual number, apparently because of an OU football game, but the stage was hot and the audience was enthusiastic.

The Oklahoma City Ballet continues to excel at contemporary ballet, as they showed Saturday night in Nicolo Fonte's "Left Unsaid," danced in flat shoes. The dancing was so good overall that this reviewer did not remember until the next day that Amanda Herd was perhaps the best of the six. Fonte's choreography, staged by Kevin Irving, seemed a natural evolution of ballet from the straight, precise lines of classical ballet to Fonte's curved lines of the women as they were lifted to curl around the men's waists as the men turned. And yet there were the straight lines of scissor kicked legs from one of the women, a surprising -- after you thought about it -- handstand from one of the men, a tug of war with Herd in the middle and a man on each side as the dancers danced with each other -- men and women, men and men. The violin adaggios by J. S. Bach suited the dance.

Also performing in this terrific ballet were Miki Kawamura, Callye McCollum, Josh Crespo, Gerald Pines and Yui Sato.

A note: the black backdrop was so dark that the men dressed in black in "Left Unsaid" and the dancers in "Cobras in the Moonlight" were difficult to see. That said the half-way raised backdrop in part of the dance brought back memories of Merce Cunningham's staging.

Anthony Tudor's neoclassical narrative danced "Jardin aux Lilas" ("Lilac Garden") told the story of an Edwardian couple's engagement party, which seemed to bring happiness to no one with Ernest Chausson's heavily portentious music, as Caroline is forced into a marriage of convenience. Miki Kawamura was very good in her interpretation of what the evening required of her, and her gestures of despair and longing as well as in her dancing. Tudor's choreography filled the stage with an active background of dancers who interacted with the main characters, evolving from earlier ballets in which the performing dancers were simply watched by the others.

Also performing major roles in this pointe ballet were Alvin Tovstogray, Ryan and Ezlimar Dortolina.

Margo Sappington's "Cobras in the Moonlight" showed four styles of tango through her tango-ballet performed in heels for the women. She wrote for the program, "These four tangos represent a journey toward the loss of anima...the fiminine principle." In the first Miki Kawamura was tossed around by Yui Sato.  In the second, Tovstogray used the senusous moves of a woman, and slicked back his hair, while Autumn Sicking became the man who watched. In the next Herd is fought over by Jerry Pines and Seth Bradley, and, in the last one Stephanie Foraker Pitts and Tye Love both appear in suits and fedoras, Pitts with a red carnation. This was placed to music by Astor Piazzola in what many would recognize as the classic music of the tango.

The striking costumes, with sparkling cobras on the dresses of the first three dancers, were courtesy of Kansas City Ballet.

Sappington's new ballet "Entwined" premiered Tuesday with Ballet Next at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

Mills led a very interesting panel discussion with Sappington, the stager for Tudor, and the stager for Fonte.
More on that later...

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