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Madison Ballet

By Susan Kepecs

Madison Ballet
Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts
Madison, WI
March 19–20, 2011
Reviewed by Susan Kepecs


Genevieve Custer Weeks as Titania (foreground) with Marguerite Luksik as Puck. Photo by Andrew Weeks, Courtesy Madison Ballet.

 

For the finale of its fourth season, Madison Ballet served up Peter Anastos’ Midsummer Night’s Dream, a blithe bit of fluff. Anastos’ ballet isn’t perfect. Titania’s lovely fairy corps deserved more visibility, and in several spots slapstick acting upstaged dance. The frequent tugs of war between the two jinxed couples in particular could have used some judicious pruning; a more balletic approach to humor would have played up the considerable chops these dancers possess, especially the limber Yu Suzuki as Helena.


Madison Ballet isn’t perfect, either. While artistic director W. Earle Smith has assembled 17 strong dancers and stamped his rhythm-savvy Balanchine style on all of them, which lends unity to their individual strengths, the company’s other productions this year didn’t escape with clean slates. But it was hard to find fault with this performance of Anastos’ 90-minute caprice.


In 2004, when Madison Ballet was still a pre-professional studio company, Anastos himself set the Titania role on soloist Genevieve Custer Weeks, who was also dancing with now-defunct Oakland Ballet. Now more mature, Custer Weeks, in total possession of the part, took buoyant pleasure in its simple variations, pushing luxuriously through the music, syncopating a waltz or stretching an arabesque on pointe a breath beyond the beat. Her acting-while-dancing skills have sharpened, too—her gemlike little pas de deux with the bumbling Bottom (played to the hilt by Zachary Guthier), hexed into a donkey by the wood sprite Puck, shone with sincerity.


Joseph Copley was an utter hoot as Oberon, parading around in a bright blue mohawk and long purple capes. Blessed with both stage presence and striking technique, he whipped off cabrioles, tour jetés, tours en l’air and a coupé jeté menège with no break. His entrechat quatres and brisé volés were embroidered with épaulement. Even when he was just standing, his back to the audience as he commanded the tiny fairies to dance, his powers of expression were impressive.


The wedding grand pas classique was gratifyingly full of movement. The Royal Court corps and the two soloist couples flowed across the stage in kaleidoscopic combinations. The regal, understated pas de deux was an ideal vehicle for Jennifer Tierney. An impeccable music box ballerina, she floated in and out of partner Gabriel Williams’ embrace, wheeling around in arabesque or rising weightlessly into low lifts. At one point Williams kneeled; Tierney, balanced on pointe in deep penché arabesque, supported only by his upheld hands, lowered her head almost to the floor—a breathtakingly extended line.


But it was Marguerite Luksik as Puck who stole the show, delivering her light, elastic, Pan-like variations, built from impish parallel prances, low tours en l’air, pas de chats, and bounding saut de chats, with sheer mischief. That’s exactly how wood sprites would dance, if they were real.

 

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