Giorgi, I’ve been spun.

Posted: 03/26/2013 in Uncategorized, Wandering 'Nati
Tags: ,

Oh Cincinnati, how happy I am to be back on your firm, yet comfortable couch with a nice ale nearby. After riding shotgun through one of the worst driving experiences I’ve had – 25mph through a snowstorm that started somewhere near Columbus and ended at Kings Island – I am content to be home. I know, I know – that was Sunday, but still…a snowstorm. On the cusp of April? Color me meh with flecks of traumatized. Should I mow the lawn or snowblow it? Who knows?

Back in the world, back to the business of life, back to the keyboard.

People…for some things, the right words just haven’t been invented yet. You think you know them all, but then a thing happens, and you have to take a moment to try to string together the best syllables that you have at your disposal. Even when you know they won’t be enough. Even when a really long, snowy car ride gives you a few extra minutes to think. Then you still take another day. Not enough.

Last Saturday night, the husband & I pulled out the finery and headed out, once again, to the Cincinnati Ballet. You may recall, I put this on the calendar earlier this month and was really looking forward to the George Balanchine centerpiece Prodigal Son. As infamous as ‘Prodigal’ is in the Balanchine repertoire, I’d not seen it performed before. Pair that up with the intriguing preview of Extremely Close, my guy, and two of my best gal pals who were joining us out on the town – for me, it was an excitement cocktail.

As we took our seats, there were the feathers. Floating ever so gently down, from rafters to stage. Knowing they were there for a reason, I gave myself a moment to let them pull me in. To feel them as much as to see them. Extremely Close would be up first, and right on cue of dimming lights – my dancecrush, Patric Palkens is the first we see dashing onto the stage. Two others follow and, in a complete contrast to the gentle calm of the floating feathers, the three are moving fast! Chains of movement that come together and break apart rapidly. The music, fast-paced piano by Philip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran, leaves no room for a misstep or hesitation. All in all, 8 dancers break into pairings and trios amidst 3 mobile white panels which mirror the push-and-pull tension of the physicality going on around them.

It is about a third of the way into this performance that I cock my head to the right, and the clarity of it all comes crashing down on me. When I saw the preview of the piece, I thought I understood it – though I was a little confused by the “relaxed aggression” description used in the Q&A session. I thought I had it. But oh…now…at least for me, something has become so unexpectedly clear. Something I have not seen in any of the descriptions I’ve read.

What I am feeling, this complex inhale of energy, is Balanchine – but not Balanchine. It is a study of contrasts – stage lights at the back light up subtly enough to create shadow. The stark white panels provide contrast to the dark costuming so the dancers stand out. There are transitions done in slow silence which play against the rapid piano syncopation. What seems so simple to the eye in set design & costuming is contrasted heavily against the alluring and complex choreography.  These conceptual contrasts are the hallmarks of Balanchine! Whether it is the intent or not, this is what I see – and the unadulterated genius of it sets me spinning. Alejandro Cerrudo hasn’t missed a single opportunity in this incredible piece to mesmerize and conflict his audience. To compliment Balanchine (seriously, go google clips of The Four Temperaments) and at the same time be unique. SO ELEGANT. Every little detail is JUST SO ELEGANT. This moment of clarity was where I lost all my right words. I think I actually heard them hit the floor and roll away. I am spun.

Also notable in ‘Extremely Close’ are Janessa Touchet, James Cunningham, Sirui Liu, and Maizyalet Velazquez. Though, to be honest, I call them out more because their sections were my favorite parts as much as any other reason – because everyone was amazing. Honestly, there is not a single spot on this visual masterpiece which did not entrance me. It is a contender for being my favorite ballet. Ever.

Following EC was the World Premiere of Concerto #4, choreographed by Cincinnati Ballet’s own Devon Carney. Following the themes of contrast and Balanchine, as intensely carnal as EC was, ‘Concerto’ is light, airy and innocent. Virgin. It is happiness via Bach and pointe shoes. Perhaps an homage to Divertimento No. 15 or Jewels. Again, Balanchine, but not Balanchine, though the influence here is more direct than Cerrudo’s.

Finally, we get to the actual Balanchine choreography in Prodigal Son – or do we? Here is the crux of the thing. The flirtation that is driving me mad. One of the most unique features of Prodigal is that it tells a story – a feature for which George Balanchine wasn’t known. At least the GB works with which I am most familiar do not bog down in details of fables. There are some others out there, but they are not the most common. Balanchine is about music and movement entwined. That’s it. So, Prodigal Son, in the very nature of its story telling continues the thread – THIS IS BALANCHINE. But Balanchine, in this work, is not yet the Balanchine we know so well. All of the revolutionary methods are there, but wrapped up in story. Similarly, in this work, we see a Cervilio Miguel Amador that we thought we knew. When you think he can’t get any more amazing, it’s as if he channels some inner daredevil that flings him up to the topmost height – just a little further than where we thought he could go. I would be remiss if I did not mention how the entire audience around me gasped when he ran up the table, sure he would fall – or held their breath at the crucifixion imagery he presents stripped down of all his possessions. Likewise, Ms. Sarah Hairston – girrrrrl, you made some people blush. I might have been one of them. For all the subtle visceral pleas of Extremely Close, Prodigal Son is unflinchingly open about the sexuality between the son and the seductress.  Yet, somehow, in all of this unabashed passion, there is the comic relief of the “drinking companions”.  More contrasts – subtle v. open, passionate v. comical. It leaves you so torn. How were you just laughing with Amador a moment in the pub when now your heart bleeds at the sound of yet another knee-strike on the stage as he drags himself home, where – with a nod to Devon Carney in the role of the father, he is unexpectedly welcome? How?

In the final moments of Prodigal Son, a single white feather comes drifting down from the sky. Whether that was intentional or not, the timing is perfect. Poetically, we are where we began with the contrast of floating calm against this intense scene in one small motion. As it strikes the ground, son & father dim. The performance is done.

Oh. my. God. Yes, loves, that was me and my crew on our feet in front of the tech box upstairs applauding like mad.

Every single time I venture out to the ballet, it is better than the last. The ballet’s next events include the Club B benefit on April 20th and Peter Frampton and the Cincinnati Ballet Live on April 26th & 27th. Go! You have got to go!


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