Sunday, March 3, 2024

Dance Review: The Richmond Ballet – Versatility and Seamlessness, The Whole Package

Richmond Ballet The Richmond Ballet’s performance at The Joyce Theater on Wednesday night achieves a feat which few ballet companies can successfully pull off.  They manage to master the classical ballet aesthetic of clean, long lines in the first piece of the night, Violin, while demonstrating their contemporary and modern movement mastery with Misa Criolla.  The final piece of the evening, Vestiges is a fusion of the dancers’ ballet and modern dance talents.  As the dance world progresses, we continue to see the necessity for dancers to be trained in a variety of dance forms.  It is more common now for ballet dancers to be versatile in modern dance and vice versa. The major difference between the Richmond Ballet and other companies is the dancers’ ability to appear comfortable while performing dance styles long considered out of the ballet aesthetic element.

The first piece of the night, Violin, which was choreographed by Val Caniparoli, features ten dancers, five women and five men. The dancers are clad in simple hunter green costumes, leotards for the women, tights for the men.  The simplicity of the costumes coupled with the lack of storyline creates a modernist feel to the piece.  Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber provides the compelling violin music.  The men begin the dance in a ritualistic circular formation. Their movements are powerful and full of energy.  The dancers bend their wrists and place their arms in very specific shapes, adding to the rich texture of the choreography.  The lights dim and the women take their position in place of the men in the center of the stage.  The women all appear happy and upbeat as they fly through the air.  My favorite part of the performance is the seamless duets which are interspersed throughout the piece. The dancers move extremely well together, whether they are dancing as a group, in a trio, or in a duet.  I thoroughly enjoy watching Maggie Small because of her quickness and her flawless technique.  Thomas Ragland is also a thrill to watch.  It is evident that the dancers feel each other when they move together onstage.  Bravo! 

Are You a DANCER?  Join iDANZ Today!After intermission, we are introduced to the world of Misa Criolla.  In this piece choreographed by William Soleau, the dancers are wearing what appears to be peasant garb; the women are wearing shawls and dresses to their ankles.  The music gives the piece an archaic feel to it, with piercing operatic voices strewn in.  According to the program, this piece is about the ability of communities to collectively rise up above adversity and join forces in a shared bond of friendship.  The stage is bordered by wooden benches which the dancers sit, dance, and move around the stage.   With elements of various folk dances thrown into the mix, the dancers couple up and then change partners throughout the duration of the piece.  For example, the dancers hold hands in a circle and then run into the middle, reminiscent of the Israeli folk dance, the Hora.  Lauren Breen and Cecile Tuzzii really stand out in this piece.  It is their stage presence and acting ability which really draws my attention to them. Although Misa Criolla is wonderfully constructed, it feels as if it drags on too long at points.

The last piece of the night, Vestiges by Colin Connor, is probably my favorite piece of the program.  The piece reminds me of musical theater because of the dramatic costumes the dancers wear, the use of the lighting, and the way the music tells a story with its melody.  The dancers portray dramatic characters, adding to the overall theatrics of the dance.  The lifts are executed seamlessly, even when one of the women dancers lifts a male dancer.  Valerie Tellmann is the standout in this piece with her unparalleled physicality and fearlessness.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Richmond Ballet and I must say that I am impressed with Artistic Director, Stoner Winslett.  The task of presenting such a versatile repertoire is not an easy one, but Ms. Winslett has shown us that she is capable of doing so.  The dancers of Richmond Ballet are extremely current and relevant dancers who not only are up-to-date on all of the trends in the dance world, but they are also setting their own.

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Official Dance Review by
Amanda Keller 
Richmond Ballet 
Venue: The Joyce Theater
Show Date:
Wednesday, April 8, 2010

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