BWW Review: Another Fantastic UP CLOSE ON HOPE at Festival Ballet
Festival Ballet's UP CLOSE ON HOPE series is always an opportunity for the company to branch out from the classical ballet most are familiar with to really show the range and talent of the dancers and choreographers. This fall program features five world premiere pieces largely in a more modern style that showcase some outstanding choreography by resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov and a star making performance by dancer Tegan Rich. It's a night of terrific performances, and unexpected delights.
The night begins with Sojourn, a modern piece that has the dancers clad in all white, and is bookended with the cast walking on their hands and feet like lumbering bears, but eventually rising to stand upright. This is very much an ensemble piece, with all dancers moving in a group, and ripples of movement going from one dancer to the next. Some of the choreography is reminiscent of the children's toys where you push a button at the bottom, and the toy collapses; and at other times the dancers appear like flowers rotating with the sun. It's a fully immersive performance with a delightful amount of whimsy.
The third piece of the night, Align is a stunning and frenetic performance featuring all female talent moving in aggressive and dramatic ways while wearing all black. Katherine Bickford, Eleanor Ambler, Julia Guiheen, Dara Nicole, Maria Rogler and Melissa Wong are astonishing in this piece set to a highly rhythmic song by composer Drehz. The highly syncopated songs match perfectly with the dancer's movements which at times resemble broken dolls, or call back to breakdancing. The theme of this program is Bold Moves, Striking Angles, and that idea is very much in evidence with this piece. This is the shortest piece of the night, and seems to just feel like a wave of sight and sound that then blinks out to nothing leaving the audience wondering what just happened. This is a performance I would watch over and over and find something new every time.
The night finishes with Reverso, a smaller ensemble piece that feels like a peek behind the ballet curtain a bit. Each of the dancers line up along a bank of mirrors, and seem to be partnering with themselves. Unlike a traditional ballet class where a dancer would be checking out his or her alignment in the mirror, this piece has our dancers engaging with themselves in a way that is fascinating to watch. Tegan Rich is a clear standout in this piece. Ms. Rich has been with Festival Ballet for eight seasons, and she's always consistently excellent, but this is the first time that this reviewer has really had the chance to be blown away by her performance. Her dancing is always technically on point, but in this role, she really had a chance to tap into her acting ability and it was fantastic.
It seems perhaps a bit obvious, but also worth noting that the talent of the dancers at Festival Ballet goes far beyond dancing ability. Jennifer Ricci's exquisite facial expressions convey as much emotion as her flawless dancer performances, and Tegan Rich in Reverso takes the audience on a true journey. This is part of the reason the UP CLOSE ON HOPE series is so exciting--it lets the viewer really appreciate the true range of talents of these dancers.
Up Close on Hope runs: Fri. Nov. 9, 2018 - 8:00pm, Sat. Nov. 10, 2018 - 7:30pm
Sun. Nov. 11, 2018 - 6:00pm, Fri. Nov. 16, 2018 - 8:00pm, Sat. Nov. 17, 2018 - 7:30pm at FBP Black Box Theatre 825 Hope St., Providence RI 02906.
Tickets at festivalballetprovidence.org
Photo: Tegan Rich in Yury Yanowsky's Reverso. Photo by Dylan Giles