Festival Ballet Delivers Fine Work, Powerful Dancing

Apr 3, 2014

Ruth Whitney and Alan Alberto dance in Festival Ballet's Up Close on Hope.
Credit Thomas Nola-Rion

Ah, yes, definitely. You could call this “Up Close” wide-ranging. Then again you could say, ahh, it’s a mixed bag. But, fortunately, this show has enough fine work – some powerful dancing, and one emotionally charged piece – to make it worth recommending.

What artistic director Misha Djuric has done this time is turn basically to his own company for inspiration and dances. The result shows work from young dancers that are sometimes amusing, sometimes not so much. Then again Festival’s stronger veterans also put forth some fine work.

The evening begins with a piece entitled “Dissociative Identity” by Courtney Hanaway, a California-bred Trainee at Festival. Turns out, according to the company’s press release, that it’s a piece looking into multiple personality disorder. Frankly, I would never have reached that conclusion watching seven young female dancers moving to pulsating music and which ends with six of them bundled together, and one all alone. It’s a work that shows thought and promise if not clarity.

The same could be said for another debut by Louisa Chapman, a company apprentice from Texas. “Living Room Vignettes” uses a red couch as a centerpiece. Around the furniture dance parents and children. Sometimes they are happy, laughter spilling out. Other times ennui seems the prevailing motive. Again, clarity is sacrificed for movement. But, again, there’s passion and budding talent.

Some of the other pieces reach far from first choreographic attempts. A standout was George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.”   Originally cut from “Swan

Lake” Balanchine brought it back in 1960. Festival company members Mindaugas Bauzys and Vilia Putrius made it live again. Fluid, unforced they both demonstrated a love of dancing for its own sake. They each returned later, she with the “Dying Swan” and he in a striking white and black costume in “Toreador.”  Two veterans, each bringing emotion and presence to the end of a life of an animal.

Other highlights included a work by 19th century Danish choreographer August Bournonville. “Flower Festival in Gensano” allowed apprentice Brenna DiFrancesco, from Seekonk, and Japanese-born company member Harunaga Yamakawa to bring pure joy and fanciful dancing to the stage.

“Extremes” an 18-year-old work by artistic director Djuric followed. It jolted you back into the 20th century. Company dancers Alan Alberto and Emily Loscocco , he shirtless, she in black with vividly colored accents, gave the piece a real edge, a real change of pace.

In a short pre-curtain talk Djuric said the audience would see “a big mixture tonight.” Certainly true.

And nothing on the program was more affecting than “Two Sisters,” a heartfelt remembrance to the late Festival dancer Jaclyn Ricci who died too young in January. Choreographed by Putrius and led with powerful emotion by Jaclyn’s sister Jennifer Ricci “Two Sisters” was both a memorial and a prayer, a reminder to us all to appreciate those around us while we have them.

Want To Go?

“Up Close on Hope” continues at Festival Ballet through April 12th.

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