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Steve Sucato
Performance Reviews
The Kennedy Center
United States
Washington D.C.
Washington, DC

Ballet Across America - Program 3: Boston Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre

by Steve Sucato
June 13, 2008
The Kennedy Center
2700 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20566
(800) 444-1324
The third and final program on The Kennedy Center's 2008 Ballet Across America series like its predecessors featured an eclectic mix of neo-classical and contemporary ballets.

The evening began with Boston Ballet performing Jorma Elo's "Brake the Eyes" (2007), a contemporary ballet in a style a la Jiri Kylian and innumerable Scandinavian choreographers. The Boston Ballet resident choreographer's ballet combined a meticulously cultivated visual aesthetic with obtuse choreography. At the center of Elo's shadowy and strangely mesmerizing ballet was principal dancer Larissa Ponomarenko. The Ukrainian-born Ponomarenko while dancing vocalized in her native tongue stern phrases directed toward her fellow dancers that were interjected with crazed laughter giving off the impression that her character in the ballet was perhaps a bit insane. Far from feeling put off by Ponomarenko's bizarre character, both the audience and the other dancers onstage were compelled to follow her as if she were a tour guide.

"Brake the Eyes" created a world where fitful streams of choreography had dancers windmilling their arms, unwinding themselves like tops, and rocketing off into brilliant bravura leaps and jumps.

Three things became apparent watching Boston Ballet's performance of Elo's ballet. The first was that the company's dancers had talent comparable to the best in the world. Secondly, the company has the chops to perform European contemporary dance works like Elo's as well as any European company. And finally, that artistic director Mikko Nissinen is not content to rest on the company's past laurels, instead he and his dancers look to be aggressively seeking even grander ones.

When it comes to ballet laurels, the program's next work by legendary choreographer Antony Tudor, was a gratifying reminder of the Englishman's immense talent.

A mainstay in The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago's repertory, Tudor's 1939 masterpiece "Jardin Aux Lilas" (Lilac Garden) like Todd Bolender's "The Still Point" from Ballet Across America's second program, provided the evening's lone classical offering.

"Lilac Garden" is an intimate story ballet with emotional and psychological overtones. The well-known work takes place in a prim and proper society where decorum trumps desire. In this place Caroline, danced by Emily Patterson, must say goodbye to her secret lover (Thomas Nicholas) in order to fulfill an arranged marriage with a man she does not love (Patrick Simoniello). Coincidentally, her betrothed has to do the same with another woman (Victoria Jaiani) from his past.

Joffrey's dancers performed immpeccably giving the ballet its best performance by any Joffrey cast I have seen to date. Patterson's graceful form combined with superior timing and acting by the rest of the cast made for a nearly flawless performance.

The program's final ballet "Rush" (2003) choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre appeared to be the work of two different choreographers.

Set to the music of composer Bohuslav Martinu, "Rush" began and ended with a fast paced group section. OBT's dancers engaged in energetic partnering and sharp bursts of movement that filled the stage with activity. While OBT's young corps danced well, Wheeldon's choreography for these fast sections was repetitive and mostly uninteresting. By contrast, tucked between the two sections was a pas de deux that was a bonifed gem.

Delicately soft and utterly delicious Wheeldon's choreography for the pas along with stellar performances by OBT's Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov rescued "Rush" from ballet mediocrity to a work worth seeing. And unlike the work's other sections, the pas de deux was full of passion and uniquely original.

A fitting conclusion to a wonderful ballet series, Ballet Across America's third program left the audience wanting more. The Kennedy Center would do very well to continue this series in the near future bringing to our nation's capital more of the talented ballet companies that are defining dance in America.
Boston Ballet's Heather Myers, Melissa Hough, and Sabi Varga in Brake the Eyes

Boston Ballet's Heather Myers, Melissa Hough, and Sabi Varga in Brake the Eyes

Photo © & courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet's Emily Patterson in Lilac Garden

The Joffrey Ballet's Emily Patterson in Lilac Garden

Photo © & courtesy of Sasha Fornari

Oregon Ballet Theatre's Gavin Larsen and Artur Sultanov in Christopher Wheeldon's RUSH

Oregon Ballet Theatre's Gavin Larsen and Artur Sultanov in Christopher Wheeldon's RUSH

Photo © & courtesy of Andy Batt

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