BWW Review: BARAK BALLET ~ BEAUTIFUL, BRAVE, BOLD AND BOUNTIFUL at THE BROAD STAGE
Barak Ballet is a formidable dance company that was created and fleshed out by Artistic Director Melissa Barak, who is a native Californian, and who has performed with the New York City Ballet and the Los Angeles Ballet Companies before forming her own Company. She trained at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica beginning at the age of eight. She has performed the works of such balletic luminaries such as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Christopher Wheeldon, Eliot Feld and Robert Garland.
The Company consists of fourteen dancers, all of whom are soloists in their own right, but work as a tight unit to create extremely interesting and innovative pieces of Art.
The Broad Stage is the perfect venue for them, and their audiences are very eager and appreciative to enjoy an evening of talented artistic collaboration.
There were three ballets presented, the first two of which were World premieres, and one that premiered last year, also at The Broad. The first piece was choreographed by Melissa Barak, entitled "Cypher," with an original score by Molly Joyce. A brilliant choice to begin the presentation. Very striking, visually, set against a black background, their electric turquoise leo- and uni-tards giving us a clear vision of every movement made; designed by Holly Hynes. Lighting was by Nathan Scheuer. Exquisite technique displayed and the preciseness with which they performed was remarkable. Ms. Barak chose her dancers well, and all of them were perfectly tuned in to one another.
The musical accompaniment, although a bit tedious to listen to, was what the dancers worked off of, and they executed everything to perfection, moving in and out of formations at a rapid pace, never missing a beat, and always in unison when needed. The nimble and quick footwork and innovative lifts and partnering were impressive and is no small feat. (Yes, feat, not feet!) The Dancers; Xuan Cheng, Jessica Gadzinski, Zachary Guthier, Brian Simcoe, Tiffany Smith and Lauren Veyette, are absolutely beautiful to watch, especially when there is a strong melodic presence, where they fill the phrases fully with exactness and proficency.
When partnering each other, they are particularly clean, lithe and so on the beat, that they seem to execute impossible and unexpected outcomes. From the beginning of a partnered step they suddenly throw in a leap and capture that defies what is expected. With many pas de deuxes in between the many interesting formations and solos, it is exciting and breathtaking to watch. There are passes of quick bourrees, frappes and gorgeous brise' voles' and grand jete's from the male dancers, all meticulously performed.
The second piece of the evening was entitled "Desert Transport" featuring Sadie Black, Julia Erickson, Stephanie Kim, Robert Mulvey, Francisco Preciado, Evan Swenson, Jorge Villarini and Hannah Wilcox, with somewhat similar content as the first piece but with a more melodic score, choreographed by Nicolas Blanc; Music by Mason Bates. Again, the costuming was quite effective, designed by Mr. Blanc and Ruth Fentroy, as was the lighting design by Nathan Scheuer. There was chanting heard along with the many different instruments in the beginning which gave the feel of some sort of proclamation being given, and as they dance, the tempo increases, and the dancers, to the pizzicato rhythm of violins, seemed to be in a heightened dream state, as if they were witnessing something on a grand heavenly scale. The many solo sections were done with much aplomb, the men owning their leaps, the ladies exact and distinct in their articulation of each step. There are ever-changing patterns, within floor work and partner work, with lifts that defy anything ordinarily seen, all beautifully performed.
The third and last piece, entitled "E/Space," was a sensational display of visual artistry, mixing electronic sounds and an exciting score by Emmy-nominated composer David Lawrence. Danced with extreme care to detail, by Sadie Black, Julia Erickson, Jessica Gadzinski, Zachary Guthier, Francisco Preciado, Tiffany Smith, Lauren Veyette, Jorge Villarini and Hanna Wilcox; Melissa Barak choreographed this piece, which debuted last year at the Broad Stage. It is well worth being on the program again, and envelops the theatre in what seems like another dimension, playing with our perspective, an outer space odyssey we are brought into by amazing, ever-evolving images. The dancers are captivating as they weave through each other, again, usually at an extremely rapid pace, with the same perfection and degree of difficulty seen earlier, never out of step; completely and seemingly effortlessly performing double attitude lifts, leaps, triple pirouettes, pique' manege, jete's, grand battements and developpe's, in solos and groups, breaking the tempo in a lovely legato section with two sets of partners, accompanied by a beautiful violin solo. The costumes, by Holly Hynes, are appropriately understated, in a light blue shade that does not detract from the busyness, but illuminates the dancers' movements extremely well. The fantastic media design is by Refik Anadol, and sets this piece apart from everything else.
Barak Ballet and Melissa Barak present thoughtful, dynamic and excellent contemporary dance pieces that are riveting and bring an authenticity to the art form of Ballet, while moving it in a forward direction. I hope they will be back many times, with more enticing programs in the future.
Photos by Cheryl Mann