It was Eric that first brought up the idea of unity being the centerpiece concept of the evening. While we were having dessert, or more aptly, not having dessert after a stop at one place seemed too rushed to be enjoyable and the server at the other forgot to put in our dessert order. It finally came and the extra wait gave us plenty of time to talk thoughts about the performance we’d just taken in – Cincinnati Ballet’s Kaplan New Works – as I mentioned yesterday. I had entertained the same thought myself here and there about unity, but something in me wanted to resist it. I saw unity. I didn’t feel unified. It was weird. But at the same time, that’s part of what the Kaplan series is all about, shaking your tree, challenging your notions, and confusing your feelings.
I have said this many times in conversation, and will say it again here, if you have one of those friends that got dragged to the Nutcracker once when they were eight years old and convinced themselves that they hate the ballet – it’s boring, it’s not macho enough, it puts you to sleep. Take them to Kaplan. They may revise their opinion. This ain’t your mamma’s ballet.
The performance opened with a piece by CB-staple, Heather Britt, and as it opened, I kinda sighed. Despite the addition of vocals by the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble bringing a new aspect to the performance, the opening sequences felt like I’d seen them before in other works by Heather. I love Heather’s work and style, but I was missing the Heather of Opus 5.5 from Kaplans of years past. However, this feeling lifted with the rise in tempo and more of the energetic Heather began to shine through the movements of the dancers. It was also at this point I began to really take notice of the men in the ensemble.
My friends, I’ve had the privilege of watching several of the dancers in the company mature in technique and confidence over the years – and I know that the Kaplan series has taken a feminist bent over the past two seasons – but can I just say, HOLY SMOKES! The guys in our ballet company are FIERCE!!! If anyone ever tells you ballet is for girls, I wouldn’t put it past one of our male dancers to lay them out! We have some STRONG, FIERCE and TALENTED men.
*Pause to breathe.*
Okay, back to the show. Next up after Heather was a hip-hop performance by Elementz Studio Kre8tv which included spoken poetry challenging societal perception. This is the part where I could shoot myself for leaving my program, which included the spoken words, on the bar at dessert. I LOVED this part of the performance, which had absolutely nothing to do with ballet in its technical sense, but posed the query – when we talk about ‘us’, what do we mean by that? Us includes all the people around us, not just the ones that look like ‘us’. Therein lies the unity. We’re in it together, but why can’t we see that? The performers were confident, and brought such high energy. Truly a BRAVE thing to throw in the line-up, Ms. Morgan.
“Fractured Glass”, by Victoria Morgan herself, I had problems connecting with. Coincidentally, this was the same piece that brought Eric to the theme of discussion unity. To me, the women moving about the stage were ANGRY. For some reason, the He-Man Women Hater’s Club came to mind from the Little Rascals. I don’t know why. I stopped trying to explain the way my brain works long ago. But this time, instead of Spanky and Alfalfa, the women had wrestled control. The choreography seemed frustrated and angry, something about breaking a glass ceiling. The male roles in this one seemed more lyrical to me – almost like the traditional archetype choreography of aggressive men and delicate women had been gender-role reversed. And I kind of get that that was part of it, again – glass ceiling fractured, but then there was a 4th female dancer that comes out and all of a sudden everyone gets along just fine. Like I said, and I will freely admit, I didn’t get it. Eric got it. I didn’t get it.
The second half of the series was the more enjoyable end to me.
“Yesterday, Tomorrow” by Amy Seiwert made me amused and happy. Clever from start to finishing details, it was eye candy in a most innocent way. I LOVE LOVE LOVED the music by Gillian Welch. On the iTunes list for sure! Using a simple bench prop, costumes comfortable in country church and soft slippers, our dancers looked like they were having just as much fun in the dance as the spectators were watching. I hope to see this one again in the future.
Continuing the dramatic reprieve was “Triple Play”, choreographed by William Whitener. A pas de deux in 3 parts, danced well to piano accompaniment. I liked it, but it didn’t hold my attention as much as I would’ve liked.
Finally, it was time to “SIT” with Jennifer Archibald. OH. MY. GOD. This is where I find unity. The sultry qualities we saw in Heather’s work amplified, with the intensity of statement made by Elementz Studio Kre8v, and the clever technical work embedded in Seiwert’s piece. The struggle of Fractured Glass. All of it came together here, UNIFIED, in a way that still makes my heart jump. First, I’ll say it was nice to see Rodrigo Almarales toeing the same line in front as Principal Dancer Cervilio Amador. I’ve acknowledged before that Almarales has been fearless in recent performances. He is earning it. Next, can we talk about James Gilmer? How tall is that guy? WOW! (And I apologize if I’m talking about the wrong dancer, because again, program left on the bar and the ballet doesn’t put up a dancer stat page like MLB does). I point this out because it’s not common to see someone that tall in dance, that can move like that – and he could MOVE! There were a few times he could’ve kicked the moon out of the sky with his extension. Did I mention how FIERCE our guys are looking?! Anyway, Archibald’s piece just kept my heartbeat loud and passionate in my ears, pinned to my seat – for the aptly named SIT.
Kaplan will be running at the Aronoff through Sunday, September 21st. Go get your seat. :)