BWW Reviews: BalletMet Honors Artistic Work of AMERICAN MASTERS

Photos by Jennifer Zmuda and Zaire Kacz. BalletMet dancers Michael Sayre, Jimmy Orrante and Kristie Latham.

The Fourth of July might still be several months away, but the Ohio Theatre's halls were bursting with patriotic pride last weekend for the works of several American artists celebrated in BalletMet's performance of "American Masters."

Like the dazzling firework displays that light up the warm summer air, "American Masters" boasted an exuberant and ever-changing stage of color, choreography and dance as the program explored four unique interpretations of American musical scores.

Featuring three world premiere ballets, "American Masters," which was performed three times during the weekend of May 1 - 3, captured the audience with its first movement, a ballet called "The Art of War." Choreographed by BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang, "The Art of War" used imaginative lighting, fluid movement and flowing red and black silk sheets to complement the music of American composer Michael Torke. Liang's choreography gave beauty to the harshness of the battlefield; indeed, the dancers' graceful sparring made it almost seem as if time had been slowed down.

After a short pause in the program, the intense mood of the first movement was eased in choreographer David Nixon's "Thinking of You," which highlighted the inspiration Nixon took from longtime BalletMet dancer Jimmy Orrante. In this ballet, which features the music of Aaron Copland, Orrante's skill is emphasized and showcased through a touching story of love.

Returning from an intermission, the program made a drastic switch to a more abstract offering--James Kudelka's "Real Life." Through repetitive, carefully planned motions, the dancers excelled in producing a whirlwind of activity through precisely performed movements. Accompanied by a unique, almost haunting, vocal soundtrack composed by Caroline Shaw, "Real Life" was a departure from the more lyrical forms of kinesthetic expression seen in the previous acts, but still managed to resonate with audiences on a deeper emotional level long after the last dancer exited the darkened stage.

Following a final intermission, the curtain rose to reveal a scene set on a darkened street with a city skyline shining in the background just above the horizon. A lighthearted classic, Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free," set to the music of Leonard Bernstein, ended the evening on a high note. The personalities of each of the ballet's characters were endearing and larger-than-life, which made for an entertaining and amusing story that left everyone smiling as they exited the theater.

In each of its movements, "American Masters" succeeded in paying homage to each composer's unique style with perfectly paired choreography. Its diverse range of music and dance encouraged audience members to celebrate those who have contributed to creating a distinctly American artistic tradition.

"American Masters" was the final performance of BalletMet's 2014-15 season. The 2015-16 season, which was announced in March, begins Oct. 2 - 10 with "Breaking Ballet." Other scheduled performances include "Dracula" (Oct. 30 - Nov. 7), "The Nutcracker" (Dec. 11 - 27), "Carmen.maquia" (Feb. 5 - 14), "Inspired" (March 11 - 13) and "Sleeping Beauty" (May 6 - 8).

More information regarding BalletMet's upcoming performances can be found on the company's website.

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From This Author Amanda Etchison

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