Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective. Danielle is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, and her first book, The Politics of State Public Arts Funding, is out now.
Saturday night at the Music Hall at Fair Park, ballet was stripped down to its rawest form. Instead of the usual dependence upon classical ballet, the choreographers involved in TITAS’ Command Performance experimented with more contemporary and progressive movements.
As the rain fell outside, the night began poetically as Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith of the San Francisco Ballet performed Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. The piece was beautifully performed as the dancers committed themselves to the awkward and hesitant quality of the movement. It later evolved into a melding of two bodies and a relationship of trust, pleasure and hope. However, the piece felt too short, a bit ephemeral.
Unfortunately, Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes’ interpretation of the Bedroom Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire did not fill the gap. The piece felt rushed and under-rehearsed. Herrera was shaky on her block, and the traditional distance between ballet dancer and audience was ever-present. The performance just fell flat. Luckily, they were able to redeem themselves with the Black Swan Pas de Deux from Swan Lake. Their performance was passionate and shallow, just like it should be, and Herrera radiated as the Odile. Her sharp and seductive performance was engaging and her confidence hit a high during her solo as she mastered more than 32 fouettés. Gomes was a confident partner, and his easy, natural technique allowed for fluidity, clean lines and his own series of tremendous leaps and turns. Together, they made this pas de deux a moment of real excitement. More than just entertaining, it was an experience for the audience who came to see classical ballet.
More of those experiences followed with Tan and Smith’s second performance of the evening (Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas de Deux) and Tiler Peck and Joaquin de Luz’s performances of Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances and their Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. Though Other Dances dragged as the longest piece of the night, de Luz’s performance stole the show. He was definitely the strongest male soloist of the night. His overt masculinity and freshness made Le Corsaire the best of the evening, and his fluidity and sense of humor were the highlight of Other Dances.
Though the Command Performance usually features only classical ballet, this year’s performance went modern with Alvin Ailey’s Cry and Sinner Man. Both performances, unfortunately, were weak. Linda Simms offered a lackadaisical performance of Cry and Matthew Rushing seems unable to keep pace with Sinner Man‘s frenzied fury. However, Rushing came alive during Elise Monte’s Treading. An exercise in balance, Rushing seemed to defy gravity as he sat in a parallel forced arch grand plié and rotated his body 180 degrees on demi-pointe.
The highlights of the evening also included the world premieres of Leo Mujic’s B Sonata and Mia Michaels’ Bring Me Back. Similar in their aesthetic, both were experiments in post-modern movement. And each gave an individual perspective on human nature. B Sonata created an extra-terrestrial world in which Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk thrived. Through isolations, contraction and release, and slithering movements, Jacoby and Pronk were reminiscent of Neolithic/post-Apocalyptical creatures. In Bring Me Back, both dancers were at their finest. Set to the music of Sigur Rós, Michaels created a world where humans are allowed to be raw, where emotion can rule. This idea was supported by the simple costuming and the sparse set. However, the set design raised a few questions: Why the half-cyc and the shrunken stage? Why the use of three light bulbs not evenly spaced? This left part of the stage dark and, at times, Jacoby and Pronk’s movements were lost. However, Jacoby and Pronk were by far the greatest partners that evening. Their relationship was positively palpable; almost juicy in its connection. They were fully committed to each performance and pulled the audience into their little world.