Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: Sacramento Ballet opens on Valentine's eve with 'Wunderland'

The Sacramento Ballet opened Thursday, Feb. 13, with a Valentine's Day weekend program.
The program of three ballets billed "Wild Sweet Love" was designed for the world class Sacramento Ballet with "Cupid" in mind.
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The first performance was “Wunderland,” choreographed by Edward Lang to music by Phillip Glass. "Wunderland" was followed by "Acceptance," a world premiere choreographed by Ma Cong. And the evening ended with "Wild Sweet Love," a Trey McIntyre ballet.
Although, the execution of "Wunderland" was none other than exemplary, the artistic message brought about through the choreography left me, well - "wundering."
The ladies costumes were certainly inspired by romance. Red leotards with plunging necklines, while the men adorned flesh colored leotards and pants.
The theme that kept coming to mind throughout the performance was that of relationships and how complicated they can be. And not just romantic relationships, but all relationships, family, friends, colleagues. Demonstrated throughout the piece through a mix of modern dance and classical ballet were relationships - harmonious at times, but oft, very difficult and challenging.
The shapes formed through the movement of the dancers were very geometric and generally symmetric, as the dancers were put through the rigorous program.
The lighting was dramatic and fit the choreography well. Puzzling though, was the snowfall during parts of the ballet. It seemed very random and did not lend itself to any interpretation.
Lang said in an interview posted on YouTube that the idea came to mind when he was working in Russia and became fascinated with snow globes.
Rex Wheeler was able to shine in three acts he danced including in Act IV which he danced with the great Christopher Nachtrab and Mate Szentes. Wheeler with his curly hair and dimpled smile reminds me more and more of Nachtrab - he loves to dance and has fun doing it.
The final pas de deux was performed by Lauryn Winterhalder and Stephan Calka. Calka, a solid and serious performer coupled well with Winterhalder who demonstrated great technique and fluidity in her movements.
The brilliance of co-artistic directors, Ron Cunningham and Carrine Binda, once again was demonstrated by utilizing the right performers, coaching them in an un-limiting fashion to turn what could have been a lackluster performance into a stellar one.
There are only three shows remaining. Treat your Valentine to a spectacular show by the world class Sacramento Ballet.
February 14, 7:30pm
February 15, 7:30pm
February 16, 2:00pm
Get your tickets before they sell out!
Tickets for all shows can be purchased online or at the Ballet box office.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

'Red Hot Valentine' presents preview of Ma Cong's World Premier

Preview of 'Wild Sweet Love'
Preview of 'Wild Sweet Love'
Susan Raines
On Feb. 8, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., the Sacramento Ballet welcomed visitors to their studio for a "Red Hot Valentine" wine and dessert reception accompanying an intimate preview of the upcoming Wild Sweet Love performances scheduled for Feb 13-16. Excerpts from all three pieces in the triple bill were performed as the limited rows of chairs were occupied with an enraptured audience. As a semi-exclusive preview, Ma Cong's Acceptance was revealed as his world premier readies to hit the stage at the Sacramento Community Center Theater on L St.
Red Hot Valentine
Susan Raines
In viewing only excerpts, the impact of Cong's "original, interpretive piece" is difficult to assess. However the dancers performed a variety of movements and choreographed scenes that were both disturbing and passionate, summoning ideas of struggle, resistance, letting go, and bits of chaos and peace scattered like the influences of love travel through one's life and soul. "Acceptance" is difficult for many when things break or conceptions are challenged. "Acceptance" can even be difficult in the throes of passion when the release of ecstasy overwhelms one with a sense of loss followed by acceptance and joy. Cong's piece presented in the Wild Sweet Love trio of ballets summons feelings that relate to many of these variances of love and passion.
During an interview with W. Mark Dendy for the Digital Journal, Cong stated that the World Premier is “very, very physical and intense and, at the same time, [has] a lot of emotional moments." The piece is " based on the classical ballet technique but interpreted in a very contemporary way.” The oddity in some of the style not typically expected in traditional ballet actually empowers the choreography by prodding our rigid barriers to "Acceptance."
Ma Cong's background in Classical Chinese dance whispers subtly into his contemporary ballet creation. His striving for dynamic expression succeeds in capturing one's attention and has endeared him to the Sacramento Ballet dancers who are excited to perform his works. The Wild Sweet Love trio of ballets is an ideal placement for this World Premier as it broadens the coverage of love "in all of its complexities." The audience will be gifted with a full range of love's expression including moments of humor in the Mexican Trio from the Wild Sweet Love piece, a wedding march, a duet filled with love and passion, and so much more both lighthearted and deep, painful and refreshing, cute and glorious.
More information is available at the Sacramento Ballet website here. Additional articles including candid comments from the Sacramento Ballet dancers can be found at "Wild Sweet Love ballet dancers speak on love," "Ballet dancers reveal Wild Sweet Love, and "Wild Sweet Love ballet dancers speak candidly."The ballet will be performed Feb. 13-16, 2014 at the Sacramento Community Center Theater with tickets running from $19-$90.