Arts » Theater + Dance

Review: IU Ballet's Spring Ballet

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Last weekend at Bloomington's Musical Arts Center, an emotion-filled Swan Lake (Act II) brought the audience into rapt attention as every detail of George Balanchine’s choreography merged perfectly with Tchaikovsky’s enduring music.

The dancers and orchestra players were outstanding throughout every episode of the escalating encounters between Odette, Queen of the Swans and Prince Siegfried and with the Swans, the Hunters and the Sorcerer Von Rothbart. The chemistry between Odette and Siegfried escalated from the moment of their first meeting into unspoken passion sweeping us into believing love could transcend evil.

In the end, Odette’s act of allegiance to Rothbart crushed us as much as it did Siegfried. What is it about captives who feel compelled to protect their captors? There is tremendous depth in this heartbreaking story hovering between reality and unreality. The dancing earns accolades.

As a corps the Swans were impeccably in unison, moving in waves and changing pictures so as to make anyone believe they truly are swans. In the Pas de Neuf and again in the Valse Bluette and Pas de Quatre intricate footwork and interweaving of groupings became hypnotic. At the March 28 matinee performance, Elizabeth Edwards and Colin Ellis imbued their Variation and Valse with tenderness and passion.
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A complete change from the tutu-whiteness of Swan Lake came with the color-wheel hued leotards of Merce Cunnigham’s Duets as 12 dancers in six pairs moved in succession to John Cage’s Improvisation III. One began to wonder — does color have something to do with relationships? Does color affect tempo or vice versa? When there’s no story, the observer wants to create a narrative. Why is what’s happening, happening? Dancers give no emotional clues — they move in a hundred different configurations and let us figure it out.

"Rubies," set on Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, is part of the three-act Balanchine ballet Jewels, together with "Emeralds" and "Diamonds." "Jewels" is considered the first abstract ballet, designed to “reveal the essence of each jewel.” As the middle act, "Rubies" is “crisp and witty,” according to program notes, and that’s what came across, as three leads and a corps artfully in sweeping and pulled-in movements arranging and rearranging themselves as if they are creating a coronet. The unseen jeweler is constantly altering the configuration until he simply gives up and ends the exercise, leaving us warmed with rich redness.

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