Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dance Preview: Madison Ballet's "Push" Program

Quirk and Johnson in Diana and Acteon  © SKepecs 2017
by Susan Kepecs
Madison Ballet’s season opener, Push (at the Bartell, Oct. 20-21), may be the most diverse repertory program the company’s ever done.  On the bill are two works by artistic director W. Earle Smith, four classical pas de deux from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and a dance by frequent guest choreographer General Hambrick. 
Both of Smith’s pieces are highly neoclassical in style, and both premiered in Madison Ballet’s first repertory program, Pure Ballet, during the company’s debut season as a professional organization in 2008.  Madison Ballet has come a long way since then, and Smith has pushed these dances into new territory with expanded solos and much more challenging choreography.  In French Suites, named for the Bach work that accompanies the piece, dancers – solo or in small groups moving in and out of unison – navigate shifts in direction and tempo; at the heart of this work is an adagio pas de deux by Kristin Hammer and Jackson Warring.  It’s a luxurious piece, though in rehearsal Concerto Veneto, to the Oboe Concerto in C Minor by Alessandro Marcello, looked more polished; it revolves around a rich, complex grand pas de deux featuring Annika Reikersdorfer and Jacob Ashley. In performance, Concerto Veneto will have an added attraction – the score will be played live by members of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.
King and Johnson © SKepecs

Smith’s neoclassical works are followed, on the playbill, by four pas de deux Smith has adapted from classical ballets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – a radical departure from the Balanchine-based, neoclassical style Madison Ballet is known for.  I wrote quite a bit about these pas de deux (Fokine’s  Le Spectre de la Rose; the Act II grand pas from Petipa’s Giselle; Petipa’s Black Swan pas, from Swan Lake; and Agrippina Vaganova’s “Diana and Acteon” pas) in my season overview, which you can read here. After watching an early run-through of the Push program, I am positive that the Vaganova pas is the perfect vehicle to showcase the
Malanga and Ashley © SKepecs
virtuosity of company power duo Shannon Quirk and Shea Johnson.
  The Fokine looked fresh and free on Michaela King and the inimitable Johnson.  And experienced newcomers Bri George (with Andrew Erickson in the Giselle pas) and Elisabeth Malanga (with Ashley, in “Black Swan”) brought new surprises to the table; it should be exciting to see them in their first performance onstage with the company.   
The Push finale is the premiere of Hambrick’s new work, Capricious, which I wrote about in my interview with the choreographer last week. Capricious, in rehearsal, was playful and lively, sweeping through space. And like all of Hambrick’s ballets it has subtle narratives built into its six movements for the viewer to discover.

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