Went to see the Eugene Ballet’s Stravinsky Gala last night at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. Wonderful evening. Here is my review
STRAVINSKY GALA REVIEW
Eugene Ballet Company
April 14, 2012, 7:30pm
The Hult Center stage sizzled with the earthy tension of Toni Pimble’s new work, “Rite of Spring”, with music by Igor Stravinsky. Controversial since the 1913 premiere, it continues to elicit shock and awe.
Toni Pimble’s choreography displayed the raw power, erotic dynamics and physical stamina of the sexual urge to mate. Jennifer Martin was brilliant as “The Chosen One”. Striped to the bone of any ballet affectations, the company performed in earthy staccato and intensely rhythmical movements. The use of clear plastic stage drapery with lighting to simulate an onstage waterfall set the right mood. The dancers wore skin colored briefs (the women adding nude sport type bras) and bare feet. The women entered the stage one by one with obvious damp hair which they used by repeatedly throwing as an extension of their bodies. Stravinsky’s musical rhythms drove the movement and the emotion from the tentative beginning to the frenzied release of the coupling. Mark Tucker and the company men were powerfully male with rippling muscles, fierce jumps and leaps. Jennifer Martin was the odd woman out and the men, led by Mark Tucker, brutalized and destroyed her. There is be no doubt that this dance company brilliantly performs in the modern dance mode.
“Apollo” was the second piece. Melissa Bobiel of Manhattan, conceived new choreography. San Franciscan Robert Ashens, conducted Stravinsky with a superb seventeen piece orchestra.
Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero was enchanting to watch. Strong, precise, and smooth, Juan took charge of the stage from his very entrance. Stunning pirouettes, effortless leaps, and graceful partnering reminded me of (dare I say) a young Baryshnikov. He WAS Apollo. Yoshie Oshima as Terpsichore, Betty Kondo as Polymnie, and Suzanne Haag as Calliope moved Melissa Bobick’s classically based movements with the agility and ease of the professional dancers they are. The audience was most appreciative and interrupted the flow several times with well deserved applause.
“The Wedding (Les Noces)” was the last work of the evening. Stravinsky composed this ballet for orchestra, dancers, and vocal ensemble. Diane Retallack conducted the Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble through this complicated score. “The libretto uses Russian wedding lyrics from songs to give the feel of overheard snatches of conversations.” (From the program notes.) The setting was a church, represented by three stained glass windows. The wedding bed was viewed upstage – symbolic of the wedding night. This work is the exact opposite of the “Rite of Spring”. Here the formality of the occasion was emphasized. Women dancers were dressed simply in a variety of colored dresses. Yoshie Oshima, as the timorous bride, was clad in white. The men wore purple loose pants tucked into lavender dance boots with loose white shirts. It was an exciting blending of color as they danced. The choreography was pleasant and seemed to echo Russian folk dance steps at times. The vocal soloists were excellent as were the ensemble and the musicians. Not my favorite of the evening.
This was the last stunning performance for Principal Dancer, Jennifer Martin, after eighteen years. Thank you for all you have given. Your on-stage radiance will be missed.