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BWW Reviews: Ballet Next Performs at New York Live Arts

Ballet Next Performs at New York Live Arts

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, Michele Wiles presented the second evening of performances of her new company, Ballet Next, at NYLA.

Michele Wiles--former American Ballet Theatre principal--is both Artistic Director and Principal Dancer. Her appearance on the stage commands attention, as her strength and magnetism pull the audience right in. Ms. Wiles has gathered a gifted group of classically trained dancers to join her in the company; it's a pleasure to see beautiful ballet dancers utilizing their considerable talents in contemporary ballet choreography.

The company is performing an evening of works by Brian Reeder, who has danced with ABT, New York City Ballet, and William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt. As choreographer, Reeder has created or restaged his ballets on ABT, ABT Studio Company, Washington Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, among other ballet companies. His work has been produced multiple times at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, and he has been the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including The New York Choreographic fellowship.

Having followed Ballet Next for the past two plus years, I can see the growth in each of Reeder's ballets, which have been performed by the company previously at The Joyce Theater and as works in process at Alvin Ailey and at MMAC. Each of the pieces has been reworked and/or expanded, as the evolution of a ballet invites, making each ballet stronger. They all present a different side of Reeder and the dancers.

First on the program was Different Homes, a pas de deux danced by Michele Wiles and Jens Weber-- former principal with the Berlin Ballet and the Ballet De Monte Carlo--to "Cello Suite no. 1" by Benjamin Britten, played admirably by Elad Kabillio, Ballet Next's Music Director. The premise of this pas de deux is that the two dancers never contact each other by allowing their palms to touch. Wiles is a force whose talent embraces and illuminates even the confines of a grand theater like the Met. We now have the pleasure of experiencing her up close in the intimate theater of NYLA, where she appears larger than life. Jens Weber is an attentive partner, working with Wiles to create a riveting duet. Together they present an appealing partnership.

Picnic is described in the program by a quote by Edgar Allen Poe, "What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream". We are presented with a backdrop, a painting by Tobin Eason, projected on the back screen of the stage, which sets the tone of the ballet along with the music, "Cello Sonata in D Minor", played beautifully by Elad Kabillo on the cello and Ben Laude on the piano. The costumes, created by Elena Comendador, are period dresses of pale gray, all similar, yet slightly different from each other, bringing us further into the other timeliness of this piece. Wiles and Jens are the mature couple at a picnic with four other women, Sarah Atkins, Brittany Cioce, Kaitlyn Gilliland, and Tiffany Mangulabnan. Gilliland, a former New York City Ballet soloist, is a pleasure to watch, bringing finesses and a delight to everything she dances. Tiffany Mangulabnan, formerly a soloist with Philippines Ballet Theatre, adds her own personality, strong and perky. Brittany Cioce appears to be the ingénue, intended or not. She is young and talented, keeping up with the more experienced dancers with ease.

The last piece of the evening was a world premiere, Surmisable Units, choreographed to "Piano Phase", by Steve Reich, played on two pianos by Ben Laude. This is quite a feat, as I have never seen this piece played like this before. The tone of the music is more upbeat than we had heard earlier in the program. The dancers, Wiles, Cioce, Gilliland, Stephen Hanna--former principal of NYCB and other ballet and Broadway credits--Mangulabnan and Weber, were dressed colorfully, by Capezio. Ms. Wiles entered first, downstage. When the other dancers entered upstage behind the pianos, it was a surprise to see them enter with silver, metallic masks covering their faces. This created a feeling of a mechanical entity which remained, although they soon put the masks aside. The dancers interacted with each other and with the pianos as parts of a machine might do, sometimes appearing to add an unexpected touch of humor. It was a joy to me when Wiles or Gilliland would slip in a fleeting human expression, giving a slight tongue-in-cheek flavor to the machine. The pas de deux of Cioce and Hanna was also a stand out moment. At the close of Surmisable Units, the audience roared, making this work the popular hit of the evening.

This young contemporary ballet company, less than three years old, shows promise of a wonderful future. I look forward to seeing them grow and showcasing more choreographers, not only of Brian Reeder, but Mauro Bigonzetti, Michele Wiles, and others, as well. It takes time to build a new Dance Company. Ballet Next is beginning to take its place in the new age of ballet.

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From This Author Marjorie Liebert