BWW Review: THARP, PARSONS, FORSYTHE at KC Ballet
The 2018-2019 season at the Kansas City Ballet is going out with a bang, presenting a program centered around innovative modern choreography, with two pieces making their Kansas City premiere and one its world premiere.
First on the program was "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated", from William Forsythe's Impressing the Czar. This piece may be said to be one of the core works of the late 20th century; indeed it arguably helped define what exactly we consider modern dance even today. The corps (as always, rotating companies between shows) handled the challenging choreography, driven by Thom Willems and Leslie Stuck's aggressive, percussion-based score. Seeing this, one cannot help but feel the local company equal to the full work, and that it will, perhaps, someday come to pass that we shall get to see them do so.
Next on the program was "A Play for Love", a new work by David Parsons to music by Rossini, Bizet, and many others. It's a sort of Shakespeare pastiche, mixing in elements from The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, and so on. Petruchio and Katarina are introduced, and promptly get on like a house on fire (massive property damage, people screaming and running away, that sort of thing). Prospero, now a benevolent wizard who watches over people to make sure things go as they ought, intercedes. He takes them back to Romeo & Juliet to show them love lost, then to Caesar and Cleopatra to witness love found. The two, shorn of their prideful facades, acquiesce to the inevitable. This is a thoroughly enjoyable piece, and just the thing for a season closer; this reviewer predicts it will become a mainstay in that position ere too long. Just the right balance of humor, whimsy, and romance are on display. Special mention should be made of Ms Danielle Bausinger, whose Katrina positively makes the show.
Finally, we end with "In the Upper Room", a collaboration between Twyla Tharp and Philip Glass, just as he was on the cusp of turning his attention to symphonic music. This is a fascinating piece, making skillful use of lighting and stagecraft to desaturate the dancers and the scene to the point that, when color does appear, it is almost shocking (we would like, incidentally, to take note of the lighting throughout the evening, which decidedly enhanced the experience overall). Ms Tharp's work is expressive as always, guiding us through Glass's nine movements to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion, both of the work and of the season overall.
And thus we close. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, we see the world premiere of a work based on Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana", Swan Lake, Celts, and as always The Nutcracker. This reviewer is looking particularly forward to the aforesaid premiere, but overall it looks like another intriguing mix of old and new, courtesy of KCB director Devon Carney. Something to look forward to as the summer months pass.