Friday, October 30, 2009

Montgomery Ballet "An Evening of Romance"

On Friday evening at the Davis Theatre, the Montgomery Ballet demonstrated once again its committment to performing both standard ballet fare and modern approaches to the art of dance, incorporating jazz, flamenco, and popular movement -- all in some stunning selections.

"An Evening of Romance" showcased the talents of this young professional resident company in two ballets choreographed by Artistic Director Elie Lazar ["Niche" and "Surrender 2 Love"] that began and ended the program, with three more traditional Pas de Deux in between. Combined with costumes and lighting that reinforce mood and character, the romantic musical accompaniment created atmospheres appropriate to each selection.

"Niche" begins with a solo dancer in a pool of light, soon joined by others in separate similar pools, gradually opening up the entire stage -- a conceit that Lazar used in a recent performance of his "Gloria". Mostly lighthearted, it investigates a number of relationships ranging from family to innocent flirtations to competitive love triangles, and introduces us to the company's assorted strengths of leaps, turns, and quick footwork.

The Pas de Deux selections showed three of the company's strongest pairings, each using traditional choreographed movements -- predictable in form [pair, male solo, female solo, pair] -- which both tell stories and highlight demanding footwork, extraordinary leaps & turns, and afford each dancer opportunities to dazzle us with their virtuosity.

The selection from "Diana and Acteon" depicts the goddess and the hunter in love. Paul Gilliam makes a dramatic entrance, startling the demure Laura Villalobos, after which each dancer exhibits impressive skill. Their pairing establishes a good rapport and trust necessary for the lifts and support each needs.

The "Pas de Slav from Le Corsaire" features Molly Wagner and Joey Villalobos, she as a veiled "slave" who is rescued by the hero. Their exotic costumes reinforced her clean lines and his elegant postures that kept us engaged in their relationship.

"Flames of Paris" was the last of the "pas de deux" that required incredible leaps from Dana Lanz-Ross and difficult bouncing en pointe by Nicole Padilla, all the while maintaining a romantic relationship. -- Impressive though he might be, Mr. Lanz-Ross needs to sustain his character at all times, in order to maintain the fictional role he plays.

"Surrender 2 Love" completes the evening. Set in a cabaret, and with music that evokes flamenco and jazz, Lazar tells a story of complex relationships and courtship rituals that might have been taken from today's headlines. Various pairings that explore partnerships -- acceptance & rejection -- are told with humor and passion by the entire corps. The dizzying effect is palpable to the audience, as the dancers twirl, leap, lift, and maneuver for dominance, keeping in character and showing their skills.

This is a company to watch. Their stamina and grace disguise the athleticism and strength required to dance with apparent ease; their skills are already impressive for such a young company, and make audiences anticipate their growth; their dramatic abilities are being honed and their confidence is growing. -- Look forward to greater things in the future.