Spoleto Review: ‘Ballet Under the Stars’ embodies intimacy, 2 by 2 ‘incredible’ dancers | Spoleto
The moments before any performance are filled with excited anticipation, but this return to dancing live at Spoleto Festival USA with “Ballet Under the Stars” on the festival’s new Rivers Green stage was particularly exciting.
Instead of print programs, audience members were treated to presentations from the cast, which consisted of three dancers from the New York City Ballet and two from the American Ballet Theater. The program of five intimate duets is their first live performance in over a year.
The first to play was an excerpt from George Balanchine’s Apollo, a landmark work choreographed in 1922, starring Calvin Royal III of the American Ballet Theater in the title role and Unity Phelan of the New York City Ballet in the role. by Terpsichore, the muse of dance. Phelan led with a bouncy solo, oscillating between soft suspensions and daring extensions. Her lively footwork breathed new life into the neoclassical intricacies of Balanchine’s choreography.
Royal followed with a playful and strong take on Apollo. Moving effortlessly through the solo, its length gave depth to the angular shapes permeating the movement. Royal’s cheerful quality continued in the pas de deux with a general feeling of innocent tenderness between them. Phelan’s elegant extensions matched the rows of columns bordering the stage, and the exuberance of their association mellowed into quiet ease as it swayed, crescent-shaped, on Royal’s shoulders as he knelt down, gently swimming his arms in the gentle breeze.
Adrian Danchig-Waring and Joseph Gordon of the New York City Ballet followed with a modern duo by Lar Lubovitch. Choreographed in the 1980s, this piece felt like it had been created for today. The dancers started at opposite ends of the stage, slowly coming to kiss each other in the center as if they were finally united after a long absence. Descending the stage, their arms intertwined, creating an infinite curl before inflating into breathtaking partner work.
Alternating between supporting each other in floating elevators across the stage, the freedom of their movement gave the choreography a pastoral quality. While most of the piece was danced in a duet, each had solo moments that allowed the other to be admired: Danchig-Waring spun and spiraled with a grounded but gentle force, and Gordon leapt with a lightness. defying gravity.
They reunited with reckless abandon, Gordon falling into Danchi-Waring’s arms to be transported across the stage with thrilling momentum. The piece ended with a return to the opening motif, their parting at the end being poignant, yet incredibly warm.
Royal returned with Isabella Boylston, director of the American Ballet Theater, for “This Bitter Earth” by Christopher Wheeldon, a duet on the interpretation of Dinah Washington with “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter as accompaniment.
The dancers tune in admirably to the moving score, skating across the stage in gentle movements, breathing invigorating life into the choreography. The intimacy of their movement made it seem like we were watching an isolated moment – the nose of their forehead, the tenderness of each embrace, a world unto itself. Their silhouettes created austere shapes against the sky, and as they stepped off the stage, a gentle breeze rustled the light skirt up to Boylston’s knees.
Jerome Robbins’ pas de deux of “In G Major” for the second movement of his work on Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major”, danced by Danchig-Waring and Phelan, provided a slight contrast.
Phelan appeared ethereal from her first step, and the promenade dance that followed was quite the summer duet that Danchig-Waring had promised in her introduction. The duo moved like a wave, rising and falling to the rhythm of the score masterfully performed by pianist Susan Walters and oboist James Austin Smith.
As they flew across the stage, Phelan gently pushed and parted the air, searching for something just beyond his reach. In an incredible moment, Danchig-Waring lifted him above his head and Phelan sailed in a lunge over his shoulder, holding only his hands for support, landing gently in an arabesque at the other end of the stage.
The finale performed by Boylston and Gordon was the much anticipated pas de deux “Diamonds” – an ode to the greatness of Russian ballet – from George Balanchine’s “Jewels”.
The open stage gave us a rare look at the dancers waiting backstage, taking a calm breath and sharing a sweet smile across the stage before confidently stepping into the lights, their long, luxurious steps exuding confidence and confidence. a subtle sensuality.
A career high for many ballerinas, Boylston’s performance was truly impressive. Her technical and artistic prowess was mesmerizing, from exquisite extensions – her leg almost brushing her face in a developed side – to the wearing of breathtaking bras. Gordon provided an impeccable, seemingly effortless partnership, allowing for a daring, uninhibited dance of the two. Although I saw this flawless pas de deux on several occasions, this performance was invigoratingly new.
As the cast bowed out, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. For a while, it felt like we could never experience the community and intimacy of live performance ever again, so sharing that moment with such amazing artists was something deep. Based on the standing ovation, I know I’m not alone.
Follow our full coverage of the Spoleto Festival USA 2021 here.
Follow Maura Hogan on Twitter at @msmaurahogan.