BWW REVIEW: A Renewed BalletNext Emerges at New York Live Arts
Michele Wiles, Director/Dancer/Choreographer, has opened her newest incarnation of BalletNext at New York Live Arts. Having attended Wednesday, February 20th, I couldn't resist returning on Friday, February 22nd, to see Maria Kowroski perform. This years' company includes eight dancers chosen from the dancers at the University of Utah, School of Dance (U of U), where Wiles has been teaching and choreographing periodically since the spring of 2018. Also on the program was Amar Ramasar, partnering Wiles or Kowrowski (on Thursday and Friday) in a pas de deux from acclaimed choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti's Bachground.
The program opened with Birds of a Feather, choreographed by Wiles for the U of U dancers to the music of Franz Joseph Haydn. Brilliant pianist, Dr. Vedrana Subotic, played on stage as the dancers performed. What a treat to be given the experience of this high-level live music during a dance performance. It is vital to Wiles to include live music in BalletNext's performances.
The high quality of the musicians is a bonus to all. Wiles has done a good thing in bringing college students to a level where they could participate in a professional performance in New York City. Her goal is to stretch the horizons and give opportunities to university dancers. These dancers were a step up from some of the dancers who have worked with BalletNext in the past few years. The excitement of these dancers to be performing with BalletNext in NYC was exciting for the audience. Their fresh personalities were shining. Friday's performance demonstrated an enormous growth in these young dancers, proving that Wiles' intention to offer them an opportunity to grow was already succeeding.
La Folia, choreographed by Bigonzetti, has become a staple of BalletNext. Music by Antonio Vivaldi was played on stage by marvelous musicians: Omar Abboud (piano), Angela Kim (violin), Stephanie Liu (violin), and Eunhye Park (cello). I have seen it danced numerous times with Wiles in one of the two roles. Her amazing balance, pirouettes, and energy were missed, but the U of U dancers chosen to dance this choreography did an outstanding job, adding a dimension all their own. Juliana Godlewski was particularly remarkable in her role in this ballet, as well as her other appearances in the performance. Her energy is fluid and worthy of a professional performance. Danielle Dreis, dancing the other role in this piece, made enormous improvements, again in two days.
The pair were well-matched. Bigonzetti's Bachground pas de deux was danced by Ramasar, one of the ballet world's top male dancers and a joy to behold, partnering Wiles on Wednesday, who shone. The pair had good chemistry and were magnetic as they drew us into the picture they were painting. Fridays' performance with Ramasar and Kowroski was beautiful with a sensuality all its own, as dancers each bring their particular qualities to the work. It inspires me to have seen both couples. The piano music of J.S. Bach was beautifully played by Subotic, again on stage.
The last work of the evening was Hey Wait, Wiles' third collaboration with composer/musician Tom Harrell. Harrell (trumpet) and Luis Perdomo (piano) performed Vibrer onstage as the eight U of U dancers performed wearing interesting black unitards, each with a splash of color, a different color for each dancer, by costume coordinator Victoria Bek. The colors danced along with the performers as the different color combinations gave varying energies when combinations of dancers came together. It was like seeing a human kaleidoscope. Wiles has a unique style of choreographing to jazz music, using dancers on pointe. This was another vehicle to allow the U of U dancers to grow and to shine.
Photo credit: Eduardo Patino NYC