axs.com, Mark Horning | October 07, 2014
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance gets mixed reviews from a diverse audience
Depending on whom you listened to after the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron this past Sunday afternoon, opinions ran from "excellent" to "just OK." So why is there such a disparity of opinions? Listening in on the comments of the younger audience members, they seemed absolutely enthralled and captivated by the performance while older patrons seemed somewhat disappointed. This seems to be the trend in audiences as more and more young people discover dance and dance companies adjust their repertoire to excite this newer generation.
The program began with Jorma Elo's work "Over Glow," which used a fusion of contemporary ballet and classical ballet styles set to music by Mendelssohn and Beethoven. It consisted of a series of sharp staccato hand and foot movements that were not only in sync with the music by had each dancer perfectly mirroring each other's movements. The piece featured dancers Craig Black, Katherine Bolaos, Samantha Klanac Campanile, Peter Franc, Nolan DeMarco McGahan and Emily Proctor. The work highlighted the fine degree of movement coordination between the dancers as well as showing off some fine instances of dancing brilliance.
After a first intermission, dancers took to the stage for a work choreographed by Ji Kylin titled "Return To A Strange Land." The piece was more in the vein of classical ballet with some astounding strength lifts and moves that wowed the crowd. Although the music was a bit unexciting, the dance moves more than made up for that deficit.
The afternoon of dance concluded after the second intermission with Norbert De La Cruz III's "Square None," which combined music by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Michelle Ross, George Frederic Handel and Apex Twin. The dancers were Corwin Barnette, Sadie Brown, Paul Busch, Peter Franc, Emily Proctor, Seia Rassenti and Joseph Watson. This combination of musical styles frankly made the work seem disjointed. It seemed to be one of those "everything but the kitchen sink" types of works which may have been the alienating factor with the older audience members.
Dance seems to be in a state of transition as companies with the word "ballet" in their names are expected to be limited to classical ballet technique by the traditional audience members while the younger generation seems to crave more of the experimental and modern styles of dance. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet seems to be trying to put on a show that pleases everyone with the first work for "the Kids", the second work for "the Elders" and the third work for everybody. Unfortunately, some members of the old guard seem to feel that ballet means ballet (as in classical ballet) and anything different is not of interest to them.
In the end, half of the audience stood and cheered (the youngsters) while the other half of older patrons sat firmly in their seats awaiting the houselights so that they could make their way to the exits.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): The performance was technically exciting with some truly unique moves that truly impressed most of the crowd. The choice of music could have matched the superb dancing with more upbeat contemporary musical works and while the third piece, Square None was interesting, many considered it too disjointed in its mix of music and movement.