Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: Sacramento Ballet opens 2013-14 season with a gem

Alexandra Cunningham and Christopher Nachtrab perform a pax de deux in 'Rubies'
Alexandra Cunningham and Christopher Nachtrab perform a pax de deux in 'Rubies'
Sacramento Ballet
Rubies, the centerpiece of George Balanchine's famed three-part ballet Jewels was performed last night, Oct. 24, for the opening of the Sacramento Ballet's 2013-14 season. The opening night program, in addition to Rubies, included The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, all three works celebrating the genius of Igor Stravinsky and his music.
The opening of the roughly 20 minute long piece was stunning as the curtain rose to reveal vivid ruby red costumed dancers set against a deep aqua tinted backdrop. Each "jewel" standing motionless, then moving in synchronicity.
Ava Chatterson performed a near flawless solo, her lengthy frame resiling with such beauty as she danced about the stage with amazing high kicks, surrounded by a host of other “rubies”, flirting and chasing, often prancing about.
This set the stage for the playful pas de deux with Sacramento Ballet veterans Alexandra Cunningham and Christopher Nachtrab who took command of the stage and delivered that jazziness that is paramount to both the music and the movement of Balanchine's work. Both dancers demonstrated their versatility, separately. yielding and delivering individuality – together, dancing as if extensions of each other.
Nachtrab did not, as is his style, refrain from having fun, jockeying around Cunningham as she dispensed hip jutting and gyrating action that was not so long ago taboo.
Chatterson reappeared for the finale lighting up the stage with the other jewels, the corps de ballet. As the tempo picked up a bit, the dancers were feeling the greatness of the changes that Balanchine had brought to the art and the way he had intended this remarkable work.
As always, the Sacramento Ballet did not disappoint its audience, and in spite of the still depressed economy which greatly impacts the arts, artistic directorsRon Cunningham and Carine Binda, began this season with the same promise and same energy that they came to Northern California with 26 years ago – to bring the best of ballet to the Sacramento community
Rubies was a four-star performance!
Do not miss this season opener. There are three more performances at the Community Center Theater, Oct. 25, 26 – 7:30pm; and Oct. 27 – 2:00pm. Purchase tickets here.

Sacramento Ballet diverges from classical ballet with 'The Rite of Spring'

Sacramento Ballet artistic directors, Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, pulled out all stops in last night's, Oct. 24, season opener – a three ballet evening with The Rite of Spring, the century old ballet choreographed to music by Igor Stravinsky as the finale
In 1913, a hundred years ago, The Rite of Spring premiered in at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The unexpected radical departure from the graceful  and refined music that the elite Parisians were accustomed to, resulted in the civilized becoming quite uncivilized; fist fights broke out which quickly escalated to a riot.
The police were called in but were unable to control the crowd. Stravinsky made a quick departure before the performance of his controversial work was over.
But at last night's Sacramento Ballet performance of The Rite of Spring, the only riotous behavior was on the stage – riotous in a good way. The principals and corps de ballet were in complete control of their movements led by Stefan Calka who took the role of the Shaman as they pulsed to the tribal-like rhythm.
As the show opened, Calka appeared as a silhouette perched on top of a mound – an altar. His head moved as if he had a tic or a twitch exaggerated by his feathered headdress. The “congregation” of the Shaman danced around the altar and their spiritual leader, seemingly subdued among the dark and primitive surroundings.
But then the Priestess, played by Lauryn Winterhalder, in her third season with the Sacramento Ballet, captivated the audience as she used both her beauty and her accomplished skills to draw the dancers and later the sacrifice into her lair.
Talented Oliver-Paul Adams, a dancer that seems to relish the challenges of interpretive dance, gave the show the fuel to make the proverbial fire burn hotter, the raw emotion developed through his moves coupled with Winterhalder's.
With the approval of the Shaman and the trickery of the Priestess, the tribal members, as they pounded their spears on the ground, were handed the sacrifice, Adams. The rite was fulfilled and the audience left satisfied as demonstrated with a standing ovation.
Last night's performance of The Rite of Spring, a ballet that abandons the classical movements for an abstract, almost chaotic routine, epitomized the versatility and talent of the Sacramento Ballet.
Once again, the Sacramento Ballet with artistic directors Cunningham and Binda demonstrated that they bring the best of ballet to the Sacramento community
The Rite of Spring was a five-star performance!
Do not miss this outstanding show. There are three more performances at the Community Center Theater, Oct. 25, 26 – 7:30pm; and Oct. 27 – 2:00pm. Purchase tickets here.