Violette Verdy presented with medal

BLOOMINGTON — Jacobs School of Music Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy was presented the President’s Medal for Excellence by Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie.

Verdy was presented the medal prior to the start of IU Ballet Theater’s fall ballet, “Classical Europe: Celebrating Violette.” Verdy choreographed one of the three pieces performed.

“I am totally surprised and overwhelmed, never expecting something of this importance,” Verdy said in a press release. “I would like to think that it is not just for me, but for everyone involved in our department — the chair, the teachers, the pianists and all our beautiful and talented young students.”

The President’s Medal of Excellences is the highest honor an IU president can bestow. It recognizes, among other criteria, distinction in public service, service to IU, and extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education and industry. The medal itself is a reproduction in silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by IU’s president at ceremonial occasions.

“Violette is one of the greatest ballerinas from an era of great dancers and choreographers, and she is an Indiana University treasure,” McRobbie said in a prepared statement. “Her remarkable achievements as a dancer and choreographer have garnered her international acclaim and several of the highest honors in her field, and she is equally renowned for her dedication to training future generations of dancers, including many who have launched successful careers at the IU Jacobs School of Music. We are extremely pleased to honor Violette for her vital contributions to the arts as one of the premier ballet dancers of the 20th century and in recognition for all that she has done for IU and for dance education.”

Born in Pont-l’Abbe, France, Verdy began her dancing career in 1945 as a soloist with Roland Petit’s Les Ballets des Champs Elys es, later called Les Ballets de Paris. She toured the U.S. for the first time in 1953 and, five years later, was invited by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet as principal dancer, a position she held for 18 years until her retirement from the stage in 1976.

While at the New York City Ballet, Balanchine created many roles especially for her.

Appointed to the IU faculty in 1996, she was named a distinguished professor in 2005.

© Herald Times 2013

 

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Review: IU Ballet celebrates Violette Verdy

by Rita Kohnverdy ballet

Challenging choreography looked easy at IU Ballet Theater’s season opener of three engaging works featuring constantly changing patterns and groupings allowing everyone a moment to shine individually while showcasing precision in ensembles and faced paced trading off. Virtuosity is expected; personality is the bonus. Celebrating Violette Verdy, whose accomplishments include dancing in over 100 ballets and serving as a teacher, coach and artistic director of ballet companies and choreographer, the program began with her light, airy, playful Variations for Eight (1979) set on music by Brahms; it’s a frolic.

In contrast, Nicolo Fonte’s Left Unsaid (2003) presents emotionally charged stark off-center shifting engagements for six dancers around and on chairs, crackling with electric energy pushed by Yerim Lee’s onstage violin accompaniment.

Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 (1956) set on Mozart’s score infused an air of formality with eight principals-five women, three men-and an ensemble of eight women constantly changing fast-paced spatial relationships. Nicholas Hersh conducted the Ballet Orchestra.

 

© NUVO 2013

 

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Verdy receives President’s Medal of Excellence award

Jacobs School of Music Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy was honored by IU President Michael McRobbie Saturday with the President’s Medal of Excellence.

Verdy was awarded the medal in honor of the recent ballet for the IU Opera & Ballet Theater, “Classical Europe: Celebrating Violette.” Verdy choreographed one of the three dances in the piece.

Verdy said she was overwhelmed by the honor, something she said she never
expected.

“I would like to think that it is not just for me, but for everyone involved in our department — the chair, the teachers, the pianists and all our beautiful and talented young students,” Verdy said in a press release.

The President’s Medal of Honor is the highest honor for an IU professor. It recognizes professors and their contributions to public service, work with IU and commitment to the arts, humanities, sciences, education and industry.

McRobbie said in a press release that Verdy’s contributions to IU have proven enough over the years to warrant her receiving this award.

“Violette is one of the greatest ballerinas from an era of great dancers and choreographers, and she is an Indiana University treasure,” he said. “Her remarkable achievements as a dancer and choreographer have garnered her international acclaim and several of the highest honors in her field, and she is equally renowned for her dedication to training future generations of dancers.”

Verdy has taught at IU since 1996, and was appointed to distinguished professor in 2005.

— Carolyn Crowcroft

 

© Indiana Daily Student 2013

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Violette Verdy Returns to the Paris Opera Ballet

violette-150Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy is once again teaching at the Paris Opera Ballet. Company director Brigitte Lefèvre invited her to spend the month of June there and will also film Professor Verdy teaching several ballet classes to the company.

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HT Ballet Review: Program full of fun

HeraldTimesOnline.com

IU SPRING BALLET

Ballet review: Program full of fun

By Nicole BrooksH-T Reviewer
March 25, 2013

Indiana University Ballet Theater’s springtime offering, a program billed Old World, New World, began Friday night in the Musical Arts Center with the old world, four pieces by August Bournonville (1805-1879), the father of the Danish style of ballet.

And that Danish style is a good time. Bournonville was one cheerful choreographer. IU’s Bournonville Suite featured excerpts from longer Bournonville classics, and each was G-rated and joyous — even memories of a past love brought happiness in “Mirror Dance,” a lovely dance for two women who mirrored each other perfectly. Watching, it took a while to figure out if a large mirror had been installed on stage, or if Melissa Meng and Natalie Nguyen were really that in sync. They were.

The Suite opened with Pas de Sept, in which the dancers played tambourines on stage and pulled off feats of incredible footwork. Bournonville is known for his use of batterie, or the beating of the legs and feet, typically while jumping. IU’s dancers displayed crisp footwork throughout the Bournonville pieces, continuing to stretch their feet until the end of the last section, Napoli, a colorful, energetic celebration, again with tambourines accompanying the orchestra.

The orchestra Friday night, conducted by Richard Fletcher, was wonderful, and the pit musicians, along with piano soloist Chappell Kingsland, were the star of the next piece, George Balanchine’s (1904-1983) “The Four Temperaments.” The choreography is so difficult, it’s tough to be critical of student dancers performing the 1946 work. But overall “The Four Temperaments” was underwhelming, and not danced with the extreme precision it calls for.

The night ended on a high note — IU Ballet Theater is masterful at programming performances, always giving the audience variety and a crowd-pleasing finale. Old World, New World ended with Balanchine’s “Western Symphony,” the legendary choreographer’s 1954 tribute to myths of the Old West. Dance hall girls and cowboys mingled in front of a blunt backdrop that let us know we were near the “bank” and the “saloon.”

The dancers had so much fun with “Western Symphony,” and it was infectious. Dressed in over-the-top frilly short skirts, mile-high feathery head pieces and black tights and pointe shoes, the gals were flirty and gutsy with the choreography. The cowboys, in black hats and boots, showed off their macho, athletic abilities. It was a great time.

Now, if only spring would truly arrive. But thank you to IU Ballet for pretending.

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2013

 

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PREVIEW: Spring ballet to fill the stage with students of dance

HeraldTimesOnline.com

Arts Corner

Spring ballet to fill the stage with students of dance

By Marci Creps 331-4375 | mcreps@heraldt.com
March 17, 2013

BLOOMINGTON — When watching the Indiana University Ballet Theater rehearse its upcoming spring show, it is hard to believe two things: It’s a rehearsal, and they are still considered students.

The gusto at which the dancers perform is awe-inspiring as they perform to a wall as if it is a full house expecting nothing but perfection. There are, of course, a few issues to iron out evidenced at the end of a full run of “The Four Temperaments,” when ballet master Guping Wang coaches the dancers on various moves.

All three ballet studios are busy on this Thursday before spring break. While campus slowly empties out, these ballet students are focused on dance, not Daytona Beach.

Keeping everything on task is ballet mistress Shawn Stevens, who communicates multiple times a day with Michael Vernon, chairman of the ballet department, who is on sabbatical.

“Since Michael is not here, I’ve been back and forth asking his opinion with casting,” Stevens said during a short break in her schedule.

She said the three pieces — “Bournonville Suite,” “The Four Temperaments” and “Western Symphony” — are very difficult stamina-wise for the students. But learning is about being presented challenges and pushing through.

The ballet students will leave soon for spring break with many going home to visit family, although a few seniors will be auditioning for jobs. Others will take trips to sunny destinations or otherwise decompress, staying in shape even as they relax, knowing their return to campus means less than a week of rehearsals before the performances. These students know how important it is to maintain a good work ethic even while on break.

“It’s the ballet mentality that’s ingrained in you when you’re young,” Stevens said.

Senior Alison Koroly, 22, is one of those dancers who must adhere to a vigorous schedule. Academics are completed in the morning with ballet classes starting at 11:30 a.m. There is a brief 15-minute break before rehearsals start at 1:15 p.m. They run until 5:45 p.m.

“I think you get used to it,” she said of her busy schedule.

When she’s not rehearsing a particular piece, she’s in pointe class — where every dancer is when not rehearsing. This gives dancers an opportunity to work on the finer points of their technique.

“Michael thinks it’s very important to be in pointe class,” Stevens said.

Senior Iver Johnson, 23, also understands the rigors of being a ballet student. Dancing since he was 8, Johnson said he didn’t know if he wanted to continue to dance when he arrived at IU as a freshman. But the program reignited his passion for dance and has him more convinced than ever that this is what he wants to do with his life.

“I came into this wondering if I still wanted to dance after college. And now I know I do,” he said. “I just felt a love for it again.”

The college experience has given Johnson the opportunity to see a different side of the art form. He’s learned that it’s never boring, and for lack of a better term, it keeps him on his toes.

“We perform and rehearse at a professional level,” Johnson said.

Stevens said that is part of the wonderful experience that students get at IU. She said Vernon runs the department as if it were a professional dance company. Students are exposed to rigorous schedules. With the spring ballet, all three ballet studios are going from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“So I’m using every minute we have,” she said.

And it is evident those moments haven’t been wasted.

Koroly said the audiences will love the dances that include all students in the department except those who are injured.

“‘Western Symphony’ definitely has the biggest cast. Pretty much the whole department is in ‘Western Symphony.’ It’s a big show,” she said.

Choreographed by George Balanchine, “Western Symphony” is also Karoly’s favorite to dance in.

“I think it’s the most me personality-wise,” she said.

The piece takes a lot of stamina, and in some pieces, Koroly said, she needs more strength than gusto to perform. When asked what audiences could expect from the spring ballet, Koroly said it was hard to choose.

“I think they’ll love the ‘Bournonville’,” she said.


If you go

WHAT: Indiana University Ballet Theater’s “Old World New World” Spring Ballet

WHEN: 8 p.m. March 22-23; 2 p.m. March 23

WHERE: IU’s Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave.

MORE: Tickets are $8-$25 and available at the center’s box office from 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and online at music.indiana.edu/ballet. There will be a preconcert talk each night at 7 p.m.


Courtesy photo

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2013

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Nutcracker Review: Indiana Daily Student

‘Nutcracker’ tradition continues

 IDS | December 02, 2012

Forget Christmas music on the radio.
The holiday season begins when IU Ballet Theater kicks off its annual performance of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
Those who have never seen the ballet will likely have heard the classic music, perhaps in the trailer for a slapstick Christmas movie.
It has been around since the 19th century and has become a staple of the season.
All four performances of the production, which is in its 54th year, were sold out.
People gathered to take pictures with the enormous statue of the nutcracker in the Musical Arts Center before Friday night’s show.
The MAC lobby was adorned with holiday décor for the occasion, but its display paled in comparison with what awaited the audience inside the theater.
“The Nutcracker” set effectively combined painted backdrops and moving pieces to create a variety of festive scenes.
Andrea Quinn conducted the orchestra with vigor as the dancers wordlessly told the age-old tale.
Young Clara and Fritz are enjoying the holidays when their godfather, the mystical Herr Drosselmeyer, descends on them bearing gifts and toys.
Drosselmeyer presents Clara with a special gift, an enchanted Nutcracker doll that comes to life at night and protects Clara from the giant mice in her nightmares.
Though they terrorized Clara, the mice entertained the audience, nimbly prancing around onstage despite their large heads.
The duel between The Nutcracker and the King Mouse took place in a thick sea of fog as child dancers bounced up and down on the sidelines. The fight scene was at once graceful and goofy.
The children, members of the Jacobs School of Music Pre-College Ballet Program, stole the show in Act I, dominated most scenes with their impressive dancing and adorable demeanor.
In Act II, with the King Mouse defeated, Herr Drosselmeyer and Clara go to the Land of Sweets to visit the Sugar Plum Fairy.
After Clara tells the Sugar Plum Fairy about her battle with the King Mouse, the Fairy rewards her with a series of performances by her dancers from all around the world.
The montage gave the Nutcracker cast a chance to strut their stuff in a wide  arrangement of dances and acrobatics, and the audience responded with cheers for every prolonged pirouette.
When it was time for the curtain call, the crowd erupted in loud, lasting, whistling applause.
Children, adults and IU alumni turned out in droves.
Jacob Gerber, a recent IU graduate, had friends in “The Nutcracker.”
He said it was great seeing them onstage doing what they love. He said the timing of the show seemed spot on.
“I thought it was incredible,” Gerber said.
IU alumna Christine Novotny also enjoyed the production. She said she was impressed by the music and how the dancers could move their bodies.
“I love ballet,” Novotny said. “(‘The Nutcracker’) always puts me in the holiday spirit.”

Copyright © 2012 Indiana Daily Student

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REVIEW: IU Ballet’s season opener lives up to high expectations

HeraldTimesOnline.com

Dance Review: ‘Light and Shade’

IU Ballet’s season opener lives up to high expectations

By Nicole Brooks 331-4232 | nbrooks@heraldt.com
October 1, 2012

IU Ballet Theater set the bar high with an evening of works by revered, iconic choreographers, presented this past Friday and Saturday in the Musical Arts Center.

The university dance majors lived up to the high expectations.

The Fall Ballet, “Light and Shade,” opened with Twyla Tharp’s “Sweet Fields,” choreographed in 1996 and consisting of 10 dances set to 18th and 19th century hymns.

It is a work that demands so much of its performers and gives so much to its audience. The Shaker hymns, performed by the University Singers in the orchestra pit, were alone a great gift.

The dancers dressed in white, the women in shorts and men in pants, all in filmy, flowing shirts and flesh-colored ballet shoes.

“Sweet Fields” demands precise technique, and the student dancers exceled at the sharp footwork and languid upper body movements.

Tharp’s work is a reminder of how a night of dance can be good for the soul. “Sweet Fields” isn’t just pleasing to the eyes and ears — we get to see people being kind to one another, lifting each other, cradling, rocking and supporting one another.

One section found the men, shirtless so the fabric wouldn’t get tangled, carrying one of their group high over their heads. The one held aloft changed, and there was much awe-inspiring flipping of human bodies. The feat was done with confidence, care and subtlety.

Up next was Peter Martins’ “Eight Easy Pieces,” from 1980. It was a visual trip to the candy store, with three ballerinas leading the way.

Every night of ballet should have at least one dance that shows off beautiful legs in pink tights and pointe shoes, and this frothy piece did that. It was simple fun. Being a Martins piece, it called for great balletic technicality, and the trio pulled off moments of brilliance — with 100-watt smiles on their faces.

Martins’ “Eight More” followed, and the candy-colored fun continued. Danced by three men this time, “Eight More” calls for comedic acting chops and great spirit. It is ballet making fun of itself. Justin Barbour, Christopher Lingner and Gregory Tyndall fight for the audience’s adoration, with long pauses at the end of a solo and very, very slow walks off stage when they’d finished dancing. The men try to one-up each another, with turns, impressive batterie and jumps that defy gravity.

The energetic piece was the crowd favorite, bringing many in the MAC to their feet.

To finish the night, IU Ballet staged its first Martha Graham work, her 1944 masterpiece “Appalachian Spring,” set to that instantly recognizable, gorgeous Aaron Copland score, performed by the Ballet Orchestra.

Eight dancers — playing the bride, the husband, the pioneer woman, the revivalist and his four followers — enter at the beginning of the piece and remain on stage for nearly the entire duration.

Not for one moment did these young performers drop the storyline. College students who text and email transformed into brave, faithful pioneers starting a life together on a 19th century farm.

There is a lot of story in “Appalachian Spring,” and it’s a shame the program notes were so lacking. After the final curtain, several people in the audience remarked they didn’t follow the intricacies of the plot.

But the story could be broadly understood thanks to the crisp, emotive dancing. Carly Hammond as the Bride was nothing short of lovely, and if there’s a more romantic and complicated relationship in fiction than that of the Bride and her Husbandman, danced by Jacob Taylor, bring it forward.

“Appalachian Spring” ends on a quiet, hopeful note, with the couple alone (yet not, as they have the support of their preacher and community), looking to the future.


Dancers with the Indiana University Ballet Theater rehearse Martha Graham’s classic work “Appalachian Spring” in the Musical Arts Center. The student dancers performed the piece as part of the Fall Ballet, “Light and Shade,” on Friday and Saturday. Courtesy photo

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

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2012-13 IU ballet season features new shows

2012-13 IU opera, ballet seasons feature three new shows

By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist
April 8, 2012

click here for original article

Three new productions are in store for us during the 2012-13 season planned by IU Opera Theater, including two for operas by Georg Frideric Handel and Phillip Glass never before staged here.

IU Ballet Theater, meanwhile, promises not only its annually awaited “Nutcracker,” but fall and spring shows featuring a wide range of works created by some of the most illustrious choreographers dating from the 19th to the current centuries.

The opera portion of the just-announced schedule also contains the music of Mozart (to start with), Lehar, Massenet and Verdi (to conclude).

“What we’ve been trying to do the last few years,” says Gwyn Richards, Jacobs School Dean and general manager of the two companies, “is to develop seasons that are a bit more diverse and less dependent on existing productions. We always have to consider what is right for our students to perform, at this stage of their development. We try to find new works that we feel should be done. We think about what our orchestras can learn from the experience. We think about choral and technical aspects. We look for balance. We seek collaborative opportunities with professional companies to reduce costs. And we always want to please our audiences, too.”

Timothy Stebbins, who, as director of productions oversees everything that happens behind the scene, calls the season ahead “compelling, with a blend of traditional and new elements, a lot of variety, and some outside-the-box attractions.

“Our biggest challenge,” he notes, “is doing a season without David Higgins on site. We have no resident set and costume designer now that he’s retired. We’re working with people from elsewhere who come and go. And even though technology helps us bridge geographical gaps, distance still can be difficult. But, that will just make us work harder, and we have really excellent people lined up for the various productions.”

The season opens with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,”last performed here in 2006 and the 10th time it has been staged by IU Opera Theater. The previously used Higgins production will be seen. The Jacobs School’s highly experienced Arthur Fagen conducts. James Marvel, who recently staged “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Albert Herring,” returns to direct.

“Arthur has agreed to coach the cast this summer so we can hit the ground running,” says Richards. (Sept. 14, 15, 21, 22)

Next comes the Fall Ballet: “Light and Shade”(Sept. 28, 29). A quartet of pieces comprise this show: “Sweet Fields,” choreographed by Twyla Tharp to 19th century Shaker hymns, performed in collaboration with the IU Choral Department and William Jon Gray; “Eight Easy Pieces,” choreographed by Peter Martins to music for piano by Stravinsky; “Eight More,” again with a Martins-Stravinsky origin, but with scoring for chamber orchestra; and “Appalachian Spring,” the renowned Martha Graham creation set to music by Aaron Copland.

“I love to do Twyla Tharp,” says Ballet Theater artistic director Michael Vernon. “Her work is so contemporary, cutting edge, inventive and, in ‘Sweet Fields,’ so spiritually tuned to the music. The Graham is, of course, an acknowledged masterpiece. And we’re honored that Peter Martins has allowed us to do his ballets.”

Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”returns to the repertory after an absence of nine years, having been staged six previous times. The production, by the “Rosenkavalier” team of William Forrester (sets) and Linda Pisano (costumes), is new. Dale Rieling is the guest conductor (last here for “Most Happy Fella” in 2009); the resident Vincent Liotta stages. The music will be sung in German, the dialogue spoken in English.

“We did that with ‘Magic Flute,’” says Richards, “fearing first that would be jarring. It wasn’t. It worked well with the German in supertitles and the English helping the audience grasp the humor.” (Oct. 18, 19, 20, 21)

Jules Massenet’s “Cendrillon,”a charming French version of the Cinderella story first staged here just three seasons ago in a new production by David Higgins, comes along next (Nov. 8, 9, 10, 11). Two Belgians will prepare it: conductor Ronald Zollman (who conducted it in 2009 and also “Romeo and Juliet” more recently) and a new-to-us stage director, Albert-Andre Lheureux.

“We like the artistic team,” says Richards, “and are delighted to bring the opera back quickly, giving audiences a second opportunity to become familiar with the opera and its lovely fantasy.”

“The Nutcracker”fills its usual holiday season niche (Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2). The choreography is Vernon’s. The lavish sets are Higgins’. The conductor is Andrea Quinn, a British maestra “we’ve been hearing much about,” says Richards, “and we’re glad she’s found a place in her schedule for us.”

The winter/spring half of the season begins with an Opera Theater first, Handel’s “Xerxes,”a comic opera that contains one of classical music’s most famous tunes, the “Largo” to which countless of us graduated from high schools and universities (Feb. 1, 2, 8, 9).

IU alum Gary Thor Wedow, a Baroque specialist who conducted Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” for Opera Theater, returns. So does the Canadian opera and theater director Tom Diamond to do the staging. Sets and costumes are by award-winning designer Robert Perdziola, whose work has been seen at the Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera.

“‘Xerxes’ is becoming increasingly popular because of its mixture of comedy and drama,” Richards says

Of very different vintage is the next attraction, “Akhnaten,”by minimalist/modernist composer Philip Glass, a contemporary opera about an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, a monotheist when such a viewpoint was rarely shared. This is the first production of any Glass opera that IU Opera Theater has produced. Arthur Fagen will conduct. Candace Evans, stage director for “Candide,” will be stage director. The design particulars are still to come.

“Many consider ‘Akhnaten’ to be Glass’ finest,” says Richards. “We think it’s important to give this important composer a place in our repertoire. It’s something our students should be exposed to.” (Feb. 22, 23, March 1, 2)

The “Spring Ballet: Old World/New World”focuses on the seminal 19th century Danish choreographer August Bournonville (“Bournonville Suite”) and the 20th century’s premier choreographer, George Balanchine (“The Four Temperaments,” music by Hindemith, and “Western Symphony,” with traditional American melodies orchestrated by Hershey Kay). (March 22, 23)

“Bournonville’s is the oldest known technique that’s come down to us,” says Vernon. “For our students to engage with his classic form is an experience they will learn so much from. We’ve done ‘The Four Temperaments’ before. It’s an iconic piece. ‘Western Symphony’ is real fun, and we’ve not done it here.”

The season ends with Verdi’s “Falstaff,”most recently staged at the MAC in 2003; this will be the seventh season in which this final Verdi opera has been performed. And it comes during 2013, the 200th anniversary year of the composer’s birth. The Robert O’Hearn sets will be used. Constantine Kitsopoulos, who most recently conducted “Fledermaus” here two years ago, will musically direct. Vincent Liotta stages. “It’s an appropriate way to end the season, with birthday greetings to Verdi,” says Richards. (April 5, 6, 12, 13).

We have some goodies to look forward to.

Reach Peter by emailing features@heraldt.com with “Jacobi” in the subject line.

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Review: Performance draws cheers

Performance draws cheers

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com
March 26, 2012

click here for original article

The story goes that when “The Sleeping Beauty” premiered at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater in 1890, the attending Tsar Alexander III beckoned Tchaikovsky to the imperial box. “Very nice,” he told the composer. A measured remark, to be sure. Tchaikovsky’s response is not known, but he is believed to have hoped for a more effusive reaction.

There’ve been far more effusive reactions since to a ballet that has become one of the world’s most prominent. And the cheers-filled reaction to Friday’s performance of the evening-long extravaganza by the Indiana University Ballet Theater seemed to reflect a far better than “very nice” judgment from the audience gathered in the Musical Arts Center.

The production on view was new, with a set design by C. David Higgins, his last for IU; the prolific designer has retired from the Jacobs School faculty. There was plenty for the eyes to feast upon. The Higgins surroundings suggested the 19th century embrace of glass environs such as London’s Crystal Palace, expansive, inviting. And, save for when the evil fairy Carabosse intrudes to cast her spell upon the proceedings, the stage was brightly lit, as if joyful sunshine were illuminating the scene. That very effective lighting, bright and otherwise, was the work of Patrick Mero.

So, for future use, IU Ballet Theater now has an exceptional production, all to the good. But for Friday night’s just-about-capacity audience (and, one trusts, the two additional audiences on Saturday), there was more for the eyes to feast upon. Director Michael Vernon and his behind-the-scenes colleagues — rehearsal director and regisseur Glenda Lucena, ballet master Guoping Wang, children’s ballet mistress Sophia Fatouros, ballet mistresses Marina Eglevsky and Violette Verdy, and coach Phillip Broomhead — had prepared the dozens of dancers to do justice to “The Sleeping Beauty,” a demanding project for the best of professional companies.

These young dancers acquitted themselves with distinction, handling deftly the passed-down and often intricate choreography of Marius Petipa, along with material added by Michael Vernon. In fact, the ballet department over at the Jacobs School appears to be working with such a depth of talent that Vernon decided to cast five ballerinas to share the lead role of Princess Aurora across the weekend’s trio of performances.

On Friday, three of the chosen were on view, different in looks, body types and style, but each fitting and fully capable of handling the assignment: a perky Jordan Martin, pristine of movement in Act 1 as the 16-year-old Aurora who pricks her finger on a rose poisoned by the villainous Carabosse, resulting in a slumber to last a hundred years; Gabriela Johnson, dreamily graceful as the princess upon being awakened by the kiss of her enamored savior, Prince Florimund; Samantha Nagy-Chow, joyously effervescent and buoyant as the Aurora who becomes a bride.

Gregory Tyndall was excellent as Prince Florimund, athletic in solos, an assured partner in duets, lifting and carrying his Auroras with seeming ease and definite flair. Elizabeth Martin portrayed the nasty cast-speller Carabosse with nifty moves and thespian snarl. Carabosse’s opposite in the story, the Lilac Fairy, had a fine interpreter in Caroline Arnold; a benign presence she was.

“The Sleeping Beauty” offers numerous dancers a chance to shine as additional fairies, as cavaliers and princes, as king and queen, as come-to-life colors and jewels, as fairy tale characters like Puss-in-Boots and Red Riding Hood. Those cast in these roles on Friday unstintingly embraced their opportunities, adding dimension to this lavish production. If not everyone was the equal in technique, they and the busy corps had the proper attitude; there was pride in steps and bearing.

So, what about the Tchaikovsky element? The ballet would not exist without his brilliant score, gorgeous, dramatically cogent, and designed so exquisitely for dancing of the highest order. It was very well served by the Concert Orchestra and a wise-to-the-ballet guest conductor, Stuart Chavetz.

 

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

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