Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Versatile and Precise: Princeton University Ballet’s "Encore," Reviewed

When you think of ballet the following images usually come to mind: pointe shoes, pink tutus, tiaras and girls in arabesque. Although this weekend’s Princeton University Ballet show Encore includes all of the above, the evening encourages the viewer to expand his or her view of ballet. If you want to see impressive dancing and confident execution, this show is not to be missed.

Throughout the evening I was impressed by the technical abilities of the dancers. It’s a rare privilege to see such talent displayed by students in a University setting, simply because many young men and women with this level of skill choose to pursue dance professionally instead of going to college. Their dedication to intellectual pursuits in addition to artistic endeavors was clear in this performance that included both precise articulation of movement and confident stage presence.

One of my favorite pieces was the contemporary dance “For My Father,” choreographed by Ilana Suprun. This piece for two dancers, Sarah Simon ’13 and Virginia Byron ’10, starts with simple moments in silence and builds throughout in both emotion and movement. It was refreshing to see movement motivated by emotion. It was clear in even the seemingly simple steps that Simon and Byron take together that their movements were completely together, just as they were emotionally connected. However, some of this beautiful dancing was cut short by the small size of the stage in Frist. I wish that the performance space had been bigger so that the dancers could completely fulfill their movement.

When you go to the show I encourage you to keep an eye out for the female dancer Emma Zorensky ’13. Zorensky’s enthusiasm and confidence on stage is infectious. Alexis Branagan ’11 shows a more flirtatious side in her solo piece “Pelea De Gallo,” which was also choreographed by Christopher Fleming. This fun piece shows that ballet does not have to be serious, but can also be playful and fun. One of my few suggestions for Princeton University Ballet is to have even more emotive movement onstage, following in the likes of Zorensky and Branagan.

Christopher Fleming’s piece entitled “Strings” confronts the misconception that ballet is solely an outdated and near static style. Though classical ballet vocabulary is used throughout the piece and the female dancers are wearing tutus, a closer examination shows how different this choreography is from other more classical works throughout the evening. Fleming, a contemporary choreographer who has performed with professional companies like New York City Ballet, uses many twists and turned in positions that defy older vocabulary. Nevertheless, his choreography does include affected hand gestures reminiscent of the neoclassical arms in George Balanchine’s beloved work “Serenade.” This connection to an older work in ballet history shows the continuity that PUB traces throughout their evening to show the transition from classical Petipa works like Swan Lake to contemporary works by guest choreographers and Princeton students themselves. The ability of each dancer to smoothly transition from challenging classical works with intricate footwork, such as the quick series of jumps cleaned executed by freshman Balzer ’13 in “Coppelia,” to the daring turns and leaps of Susan Jaffe’s “Pulse” take both stamina and intelligence.

Overall, I encourage you to see Princeton University Ballet’s program “Encore.” You will be amazed by their technical mastery of diverse ballet repertoire and enchanted by their stage presence.

4 paws

Pros: Confident dancing, diverse pieces

Cons: Could have been a bit more emotion in the movement during certain pieces.

-Katy Dammers '13

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