BWW REVIEW: UP CLOSE ON HOPE Has Something For Everyone
The UP CLOSE ON HOPE productions are always a delightful way to see the range of talents--both in dance and choreography that Festival Ballet brings to the table, and this Fall program continues that standard of excellence. There are several classical ballet pieces, some whimsical and some surreal, but each are delightful in their own way. The best aspect of the UP CLOSE ON HOPE series, is that one never knows what to expect except another fantastic evening.
The program includes two world premiere performances as well as several older pieces. World premiere "Seven Sides of You", choreographed by recently retired dancer Vilia Putrius kicks off the evening, with a classic, violin-heavy piece featuring new dancer Azamat Asangul and Olivia Kaczmarzyk, as well as several other company dancers. It was a fairly simple story, but beautifully executed and lovely to watch.
After a rather classic setup with Seven Sides of You and Excerpt From The American, which featured music by Antonin Dvorak, and the big dance movements one would expect from his music, we move into the more experimental pieces of the night with Swimmers Suite and From Earth.
Swimmer's Suite is the other world premiere piece of the evening, and is by far the most fun romp, perhaps that Festival has ever put on. Each season with Up Close on Hope, there's at least one performance the surprises and delights in a brand-new way, and Swimmer's Suite is exactly that in the fall show. Choreographed by Brooklyn based Mary Ellen Beaudreau, this piece is a callback to the films of Esther Williams and synchronized swimming performances. Featuring 17 dancers clad in black swimming costumes circa 1930's as well as old-style swimming caps, the choreography really features the athleticism of the dancers, as well as alternating between using beautiful movement and hilarious physical comedy. It's delightful in that it is completely unexpected and unpredictable, with the graceful movements of the dancers, the audience may forget that they're not actually underwater. Given the number of dancers on the stage, it's almost an overwhelming spectacle of movement.
From Earth, choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov is a callback to some of the clockwork, jerky movements that were also used to great effect in 2016's House of Bernardo Alba. Dancers Eugenia Zinovieva and Azamat Asangul move frenetically around the stage, occasionally freezing with Eugenia in a pose with arms and legs out at angles that almost resemble a bug under glass. Recent improvements to the theatre also mean that they are able to be more dynamic with lighting, and those enhancements really make this piece shine.
The night closes with Magnificat, a piece choreographed by artistic director Mihailo Djuric in 1995. It's the story of families made enemies due to religious conflict, and is based on his own experiences growing up in Yugoslavia. Featuring big movements that look Slavic in their style, this number allows dancers Tegan Rich and Jennifer Ricci to really shine. In particular, Ricci's incredibly expressive face conveys such deep levels of heartbreak, as she's torn between loyalties.
The UP CLOSE ON HOPE series is always a chance to see the full range of capabilities, both from the dancers, but also the choreographers. It's so much fun to see what they come up with, and how despite each piece being dramatically different, there is often a common thread linking them all together.
Up Close on Hope runs Friday-Sunday for two weekends: Nov. 10-12 and Nov. 17-19, 2017 at the FBP Black Box Theater 825 Hope Street Providence, RI 02906. Tickets can be purchased online at festivalballetprovidence.org or by phone at 401-353-1129.
Photo: Jennifer Ricci (center) in Magnificat. Photo by Dylan Giles.