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Innovations by Ballet Arizona

“Innovations” presented by Ballet Arizona provided opportunities for Ballet Arizona dancers to choreograph and present their own work. The choreographers adapted traditional ballet structures, and infiltrated contemporary and urban dance styles into their work. One of the most refreshing elements of the program was the heterogonous array of body-types, performance styles, and choreographic aesthetics. My favorite part of the program was the choreographer video reels. The videos provided an inlet for the audience to relate to the choreography by understanding the choreographer’s personality and historical background.

What remained incredibly non-innovative were the transitions between sections that jolted the audience by changing the music or creating a blackout. Another resilient structure of ballet that was ever present in the program was the dominance of the male in positions of power. There are 19 female and 12 male dancers in the company, but the show only presented the work of one female choreographer, Tzu-Chia Huang.

Her work, Memory, had a tenderness and ease to it that was not present in other works presented in the program. The piece began with an empty stage with lighting that resembled the texture of a dark amber leaf spotted with sunlight. A man entered from stage left with a strong sense of internal presence as he performed a captivatingly silky opening solo. The performers remained internal until they attempted to connect with one another. They would reach out to physically connect but failed to create genuine expressions of feeling through touch. Overall the performers lacked the continuity and weight needed to fully execute the choreography. As a professional ballet company, I expected to see more polished performances that portrayed a strong sense of ensembleness.

Fortunately, the dancers in Nayon Iovino’s piece, Inner Layer, were extremely connected. The piece began in silence, but the group collectively had a rhythm to their movement. The work presented the agility of the dancers while also innovated traditional ballet by creating unpredictable transitions between the codified ballet steps. I would not be surprised if this work was added to the repertory of other dance companies. It is clear that Iovino is a musician himself through his sophisticated musicality. Every movement had a place within his fabulous selection of music by Project Trio, Art Sonic, Antonio Vivaldi, and Nils Frahm and it was clear that his dancers had an understanding of how to relate their movements to the music.

Intervals, by Myles Lavallee, did not have the same ability to fulfill the music with the movement. The choreography neglected the multiple layers of the music and left the work unripe. The asymmetrical movements were infiltrated with urban dance styles and were driven by a direct relationship to a strong bass line. Myles Lavallee had a fabulous performance and clearly understood the qualities of each movement, however, the other dancers in the cast were clumsy and unable to execute the demands of the choreography.

The most traditional ballet work in the program was Bright Colors, by Astrit Zejnati. The costumes were a vibrant rendition of traditional ballet tutus and pointe shoes, and the piece had a clear distinction between principal, soloist, and corps dancers. The corps became a silhouette of bodies that were disconnected from a pas de deux of a male and female that attempted to portray happiness, but looked more like they were dancing on pastel eggshells. The entire work pretended to be floating on clouds, “capturing the really colorful moments in life,” as Zejnati says. However, other than the soloist in light pink, the dancers looked fabricated, and the piece was a pseudo representation of a colorful life.

It is refreshing to see a ballet company provide opportunities for the dancers to present contemporary work. Ballet Arizona could use more contemporary repertoire in their season, and no, Balanchine is not contemporary anymore. It is fabulous to see technically skilled dancers challenge their bodies with new movement styles. It would be great to continue to support Ballet Arizona in their new programming. There is still time to see this performance if you have not seen it yet. (Saturday, May 31 @ 7:00pm and Sunday June 1 @ 1:00pm)

Reviewed by Julie Akerly

May 31, 2pm Show

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