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BalletMet Columbus and the Ohio State University Department of Dance

BalletMet Columbus and the Ohio State University Department of Dance
Mershon Auditorium, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
May 12–15, 2005
Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Tradition met with reinterpretation as BalletMet Columbus and Ohio State University’s Department of Dance partnered in “Firebird and The Rite of Spring: A Russian Revolution.” The program opened with the world premiere of choreographer Stanton Welch’s Firebird, a 20-minute ballet set to Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Within a monochromatic setting of grays and blacks, a sinister, birdlike minister (Hisham Omardien) stirred to religious fervor a congregation of Puritan-like followers, some costumed in long, hooded coats and others resembling the undead. Welch’s captivating, theatrical opening and the somber atmosphere of this unique take on the story immediately engaged the audience. However, what followed was a clichéd tale of individuality overcoming oppression.

Instigated by a passerby (Jimmy Orrante) in a bright green coat and the flitting of a spritelike Firebird (Luz San Miguel), which appeared to emerge from the womb of one of the village’s chaste women (Carrie West), the bleak village is thrown into upheaval. The Firebird and the passerby fall in love during a heartfelt classical pas de deux. Swept by a wave of newfound courage, the inspired congregants unveil brightly colored clothing beneath their drab outer garments. The ballet culminates in a trite, Rothbart-like demise of the minister and the congregation staring hopefully out into the audience.

Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jeschke offered a faithful reconstruction of Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune, performed by OSU students. Graduate student Scott Lowe turned in a solid performance as the Faun, capturing the work’s two-dimensional look and slow pace.

After Heart Strings, a lively tango-esque ballet by hometown choreographer Maria Glimcher, the program concluded with Doug Varone’s powerful and disturbing Rite of Spring, set on 37 dancers from BalletMet and OSU. Engaged in Varone’s pedestrian movements, large groups of dancers ran, crawled, and crashed into each other. Thirty women in 1950s-era dresses, looking like wild sorority girls stricken with a primal bloodlust, swirled about the stage vying for a ceremonial bundle of wheat. Danced with verve to Stravinsky’s original score, the sacrificial theme was frighteningly brilliant in its brutality and detail. Orrante and Tracy Thayer were menacing as cruel sages, and Adrienne Benz shone as the tormented Chosen One.

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