GRAND GESTURES: Festival Ballet’s troupe soars in “Up CLOSE, on HOPE.”
What began as a way to give audiences a closer look at its dancers and choreographers an opportunity to showcase new work has become an integral part of Festival Ballet Providence’s season: the “Up CLOSE, on HOPE” series. The two programs that were presented recently will be repeated on November 8,9, 15, and 16, at Festival’s Black Box Theatre (825 Hope Street, Providence).
Among the nine pieces in the current series, there are two Rhode Island premieres, one by Festival favorite Viktor Plotnikov, the other by newcomer Boyko Dossev, and two world premieres, by local choreographers Colleen Cavanaugh and Mark Harootian (also a dancer with Festival).
Plotnikov’s work led off the evening, with six dancers in Moments (2007), set to the familiar piano strains of Erik Satie. Plotnikov’s choreography goes for the unexpected, in partnering and in poses, and that comes to the fore here. Particularly striking is his penchant for gesture — his use of hands and arms to express the emotional undercurrents in a work: palms held in front of the face; hands patting the top of the head; arms held straight out with hands perpendicular or swinging into wide arcs overhead; fingers fluttering or splayed.
After the sculptural look of Plotnikov, the slithery, sensual curves of Gianni DiMarco’s Amphibious Love (2002) are a captivating contrast. This duet (Lauren Menger and Roger Kilfoil) is danced to Buena Vista Social Club’s “Chan Chan,” and if the music doesn’t make you sway in your seat, the unfolding limbs and clasping arms, joyous leaps and rolling-on-the-floor embraces will draw you in like a love scene in a Latin film.
Another strong piece from Mark Harootian bookends the show. Identity is set to two numbers by Tool, arranged for piano by Ray Allen. Performed by eight dancers, the piece has ever-shifting duos and at least two “crowd” groupings, in which the dancers fling their arms (and eyes) upward in unison. Is each individual searching for who he or she is, in relation to friends, acquaintances, or a group of people? Whatever lies in the abstract movement of this dance, it’s hypnotic to watch.
In the first half of the program, Mihailo (“Misha”) Djuric and Cavanaugh reprise repertory work, he with Magnificat (1995, performed in ’99 at RIC), set to Bach, and she with Dawn of Departure (1998), set to Tchaikovsky. The latter duet is a romantic whirl of partnering, the two dancers almost never losing physical touch with each other until the very end. The former is a complex series of trios, duos, and ensemble work, featuring eight dancers.
Inspired by Renaissance and Baroque paintings in the Yugoslavian churches of his youth — the religious images and the faces of the peasants — Djuric has created moments in the dance that evoke the Piéta or the crucifixion of Christ, and others when the dancers throw off their earthly sorrows and anxieties, as folk dance steps emerge. A mesmerizing piece.
Local composer/musician Michael DeQuattro has composed a terrific score for Cavanaugh’s new work, Before the Rain. Three dancers (Leticia Guerrero, Lauren Menger, and Roger Fonnegra on this particular evening — Djuric likes to switch casting for “Up CLOSE, on HOPE” programs) show us the internal turmoil and chaos of coping with drought conditions, as they spin aimlessly past one another. In the last section, they find comfort and community together.