Festival Ballet Providence

October 22, 2004

From The Widow’s Broom

Festival Ballet Providence

VMA Arts & Cultural Center, Providence, RI

October 22–24, 2004

Reviewed by Bill Gale




What happens when a witch is separated from her broom? Not a question most of us have contemplated—or cared to. But Festival Ballet Providence has. The result is a lyrical, lovely, small ballet that’s short on choreography but long on crowd-pleasing effects and storytelling with a moral.

Taken from Chris Van Allsburg’s book for children, the world premiere of The Widow’s Broom has much to recommend, particularly as an introduction to ballet for new (read “young”) audiences.

The story is simple. A witch, flying in a squadron of black-and-orange-clad colleagues (simple, strong costumes by Ka Yan Kan), makes a forced landing. Taken in by a widow and son, the broom (a dancing role) revives, becoming a boon to the household. The male neighbors hate it, but their wives kind of like the idea. A terrible battle begins, and the men at first overwhelm the widow. Finally she, smaller and weaker but unafraid, triumphs.

Artistic director Mihailo Djuric assembled a mostly local artistic team. Providence’s Van Allsburg adapted his book for the stage; the choreography is by longtime Boston Ballet principal Viktor Plotnikov; and Tony Award-winner and Saturday Night Live designer Eugene Lee, a Providence resident, did the quirky (pumpkins slide in gaily as a seasonal reminder), witty sets. The score—pulsing, foreboding, then lyrical—is by New York-based Aleksandra Vrebalov.

The result is a work that makes a point and entertains. Plotnikov emphasizes plot, presenting us with a slightly larger-than-life effect, getting at fears and hopes through character development. This emphasis on exposition is fine, but it comes at the expense of the dancing. Only at the beginning—when the witches frolic, moving first with serpentine grace, then balancing left, right, followed by flings forward—and at the end, when broom and widow have a sinewy, nearly sensual pas de deux (danced tightly but with fluid grace by Gleb Lyamenkoff and Leticia Guerrero), is the audience treated to full-scale, balletic movement.

But the Widow’s Broom theme—the seemingly weak overcoming the powerful, and the true and decent emerging victorious—is more than enough to make this piece work, and, perhaps, have a future.

For more information: www.festivalballet.com