Saturday, September 26, 2009

Montgomery Ballet

This past weekend only, the Montgomery Ballet performed "Gloria" -- a tribute to the late Haynes Owens -- and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, both choreographed by the dance company's Artistic Director, Elie Lazar.

As choreographed by Lazar, both pieces represent some of the very essences of theatre: emotionally charged stories told through characters that engage us by their humanity. Combine this with interpretations of great music by the elegantly expressive bodies of principal dancers and a talented corp de ballet, and the result is an entertaining and impressive theatrical experience.

The sheer athleticism of the dancers is enough to garner praise, but add to it the merging of strength & agility and seeming ease of staggering leaps, spins, and extensions that provide a narrative without words that make the stories easy to follow.

"Gloria" is the more introspective piece, using Vivaldi's score to underpin Lazar's exploration of mankind's understanding of himself and his relationship to his God.

Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- with its familiar score by Mendelssohn -- is given a traditionally romantic setting & expression, complete with the humor of the original. Though the Montgomery Ballet's version edits some characters and story lines [no Theseus & Hippolyta, nor "rude mechanicals" other than Bottom], it is true to the spirit of its source, and tells a clear story.

Applause punctuated the performances as the dancers proved their dexterity in fluid movement and masterful interpretation of score and story. And a true test of its success was that the audience left the theatre enthusiastically discussing the performance.