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.
Picture this: a balmy summer evening, a back alley stage, a craps game, dollar bills and some dancers looking to let the good times roll.
It was the perfect setup to a big night, but, unfortunately, Ballet Concerto‘s 26 Annual Summer Dance Concert fell flat. The smooth quality of movement central to the contemporary jazz ballet of longtime resident choreographer Christine Marie Hay seemed at times lackadaisical. Maybe it was the unfortunate choice of velvet costumes in navy and black in June in Texas, or maybe it was the shakiness of the dancers en pointe. It also may have been the setting. Watching ballet outdoors was an experience that definitely took some getting used to.
It was difficult to reconcile the sound of I-30, kids playing and the multitude of bugs biting. But those distractions were smoothed over by the soft and subtle duet of Melinda Morton and Robert Stewart. An intimate partnering that personified the sweet loving that just seems to arise effortlessly in the summer, Morton and Stewart performed beautifully. He was a strong partner, and she floated about the stage. One particularly lovely moment occurred when Morton eased into the splits and Stewart swept her off the ground into a series of gravity-defying chaînés.
Hays further seduced us with Red Top, an energetic, hot and fun quartet featuring Alyssa Alger, Justin Hogan, Brandon Nguyen and Jim Peronto. There were numerous moments of fluid and fresh partnering that was a delight to the eye and to the mind. As a choreographer, it was inspiring.
Yet, the good times were lost again with an uninspired interpretation of Fever and a disjointed ensemble piece set to a variation of “Over the Rainbow.” Katie Keith was believable, but the ensemble seemed uncomfortable with the lyrical movement. The dancers did end on a high note as they finally embraced their characters and pulled out a flashy finish.
And that high continued with noted Spanish dancer Luis Montero’s seductive interpretation of selected pas de deuxs from Carmen. If you are looking for a little bit of drama, or melodrama, in your ballet, then Montero is the man for you. It was hot, it was sexy – it was a soap opera en pointe! Featured soloist Michele Gifford’s Carmen was passionate, Nguyen’s Escamillo will take any young girl’s breath away and Grant Dettling’s Don Jose is that man you love to hate.
The night took a turn for the sweet with Bruce Marks’ contemporary ballet Straight from the Heart. Company member Melian Izotova was effortless as a skylark pursued by Mkyhaylo Izotov. Dettling and Katie Keith shone in a sweet and entertaining duet set to Cole Porter’s “Looking at You.” And Hogan masterfully completed a challenging solo full of out-of-this-world tours en l’air, piquées and pirouettes. Gifford stole the show though as a sexy siren tempting all the boys to leave their women behind.
But when the ensemble came together for the finale, Marks’ use of such modern elements as contraction and release, flexed feet and parallel positions looked awkward on some of the dancers. Nevertheless, the ballet was entertaining.
The evening ended with a surprise appearance by Montero himself as the grant master in his Bolero. Accompanied by Margo Dean (founder/artistic director of Ballet Concerto) and flamenco dancer Margarita Bruce, Ballet Concerto made the temperature rise. Melian Izotva’s post-modern take on Spanish pageantry was an interesting and welcomed reprieve to a night full of classical and contemporary movement. She gracefully slinked across the stage with a series of sharp and methodical steps and her 180-degree arabesque penchée drew ohs-and-ahs from the audience, as did some innovative lifts that mimicked Moorish cave drawings.
Ballet Concerto performs tonight through Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Click here for full details.