TECHNICAL PRECISION Alberto and Whitney perform "The Unexpected." [Photo by A. Cemal Ekin]
Festival Ballet Providence's Up Close On Hope can be counted on to present new works and to spotlight new company members. The spring program, which is at Festival's Black Box Theatre April 5, 6, 12, and 13, offers 10 pieces, six of them shown for the first time, and three by current company members, including Mihailo "Misha" Djuric, FBP's artistic director.
Other reliable factors for UCOH are: a range of music that encompasses classical, contemporary, and everything in between; at least one (in this case two) classic pas de deux which gives dancers a chance to showcase their dancing chops; and a wide variety of narrative and abstract dances.
The narrative pieces this time around were completely captivating and engaging, though there were certainly breathtaking moments in each of the dances — and the line between narrative and abstract can often be difficult to discern. But the storytelling in New York choreographer John Drake's "The First Thirty Years," set to Eric Clapton's "Mean Ole World," danced with charm and skill by Louisa Chapman, was unmistakable. From the playfulness of childhood, Chapman moved into the flirtatious strut of adolescence to the walking-out-the-door to leave an abusive husband.
Boston Ballet's George Birkadze returned to Festival with "Rhapsody for Two," set to Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue." Both the dancing and the acting conveyed such attitude and conversation between Ilya Burov and Emily Loscocco that it was hard to imagine I'd ever listened to this music without hearing its sensual and seductive motifs.
The two classic pas de deux were Vasily Vainonen's "Flames of Paris" (from 1932) and Victor Gsovsky's "Grand Pas Classique" (from 1949). In the former, two new company members — Eugenia Zinovieva and Toleu Mukanov — were given the chance to shine, he with variations on grand jetés, she with en pointe hops. In the latter, the more seasoned dancers — Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys — made very challenging moves look elegant and smooth: he with entrechats, in which the pointed feet beat back and forth; she with double fouettés (when one leg whips around) and one slow straight-legged pirouette. Amazing.
Two pieces, including "Pieta," also by Birkadze, to Handel's aria for Cleopatra, and company member Alex Lantz's "Sides of Farewell," to Edvard Grieg, expressed deep mourning, in questioning gestures, arms held open, eyes to the sky; attempts at comfort, in catching and holding poses; and a giving-in to anguish, as a dancer slid to his knees. Vilia Putrius's "Musica," set to Astor Piazzola, is dark and existential, made with square angles, almost robotic movements, and off-balance poses. It is, however, danced beautifully by Jennifer Ricci, Alan Alberto, and Ian Matysiak, and has startling partnering among them — e.g., when she runs up one dancer's back and across his shoulders while supported by the other dancer.
Djuric's 1985 piece, "The Unexpected," set to Dan Fogelberg, also provides surprise partnering moves, among them Alan Alberto holding Ruth Whitney upside down in a horizontal split and stretching one of his legs out under one of hers mid-air. The technical precision of this piece is jaw-dropping, and that includes the gentle touch of Alberto, as he begins to woo Whitney in this tender, romantic dance.