BWW Review: Dresden Semperoper Ballett Brings Classical and Contemporary Ballet to NYC

BWW Review: Dresden Semperoper Ballett Brings Classical and Contemporary Ballet to NYC

On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, I attended the opening night of the Dresden Semperoper Ballett, under the artistic direction of Aaron Sean Watkin, at The Joyce Theater with great anticipation. I was excited to see contemporary ballet as it is presented in Europe. The flyer for this company describes its program, "an elegant program that showcases classical ballet with a contemporary bend". There was pointe work in David Dawson's two pieces and no shoes in the other two works. The dancers must have been chosen for their flexibility of spirit.

First on the program was 5 (U.S. Premiere), from Dawson's acclaimed Giselle, originated as the Wedding Pas de Cinq. Dawson did the lighting for this ballet as well as for his pas de deux that appeared third on this evening's program. The music was, of course, by Adolphe Adam. Costume design by Yumiko Takeshima, the three female dancers in white tutus, pointe shoes, and bare legs with two men in grey tights and black tops performed mostly classical technique with an occasional roll through the spine or sparse other contemporary touches. Alice Mariani was lovely as the Giselle character, except when the musical passage was very fast and it was hard for her to accomplish all of the steps without falling just behind the music. Despite the bare legs and few contemporary touches, the technique was predominantly classical, including simultaneous tours a la seconde done by the two men, Julian Amir Lacey and Michael Tucker, one to the right and the other to the left, staying in line and arriving toes pointed towards each other at the end of each revolution.

Ganz Leise Kommt Die Nacht/The Night Falls Quietly (World Premiere), choreography, costumes, and lighting design by Joseph Hernandez, was next on the program. Hernandez' choreography was greatly influenced by the music of Bohren & Der Club of Gore, whose music fueled the work with jazz ballads, Black Sabbath doom, and down-tuned Autopsy sounds. The four dancers, back to the audience at the front of the stage moved extremely slowly towards the back of the stage. The two female dancers had bare feet and the two male dancers wore socks, a detail whose meaning eluded me, as they all wore street clothes of different styles. The pace picked up and the dancers moved from one random connection to another without developing relationships. Along the way there were a few notable moments, although the energy level remained the same throughout. Ayaha Tsunaki showed herself to be an intense, passionate dancer. Aiden Gibson had a very different personality, but also strong and interesting to observe. The final passage with Gibson and Francesco Pio Ricci, as the lights dimmed, to sultry jazz music, was beautiful.

A pas de deux by Dawson, On the Nature of Daylight, to music of Max Richter was third. Mariani appeared on pointe, partnered by Julian Amir Lacey. The work moved from idea to idea, including some lovely lifts.

Closing the program was my personal favorite. Stijn Celis's choreography, Vertigo Maze, to Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita d-minor BWV 1004 for Violin solo. Costume design by Kathy Brunner featured skin toned ½ leotards for all and corsets for the females, in the same color. All dancers were barefoot. Lighting design was by Erik Berglund. This work flowed from one segment to another with delightful musicality, development growing through different groups of dancers, ending with a breathtaking pas de deux by the principal couple, Tsunaki and Jon Vallejo. This work exemplifies the direction I would like to see contemporary dance take: engaging movement with nothing contrived... real people dancing with passion and direction.

Dresden Semperoper Ballett will be appearing at The Joyce Theater through November 4, 2017.

Photo credit: Costin Radu

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