If I had a friend like Arthur –

Posted: 02/16/2014 in Uncategorized
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I’m pretty sure I’d borrow $20 from him and not pay it back.

Except that that’s a lie. But only because I’m a payer-backer. Actually – I’m a not-borrower-in-the-first-placer. But if I was a borrower-in-the-first-placer and I borrowed $20 from Arthur, and I were not a payer-backer, I wouldn’t pay him back. Follow? Then I’d see him again, and I’d ask to borrower another $20 – and ya know what? He’d give it to me. Because that’s the kind of guy Arthur is – he’s trusting.

He’d trust the woman he loved to be faithful. He’d trust the new friend he found to be true. He’d trust the motives of the newcomer, just arrived off the lake.

She isn’t. He isn’t. That guy who smells like fishiness – not so trustworthy.  This is the story of Camelot – where you’re only as good as your word.

Cincinnati Ballet staged the WORLD PREMIERE of the lover’s tale, opening this past Thursday night, and *this girl* was lucky enough to be there!

My friends, it was like Carnival on stage. Victoria Morgan, Artistic Director and CEO of Cincy Ballet, does not *do* boring in her choreography. There were so many whirling colors! Groups in movement. Puppets! There were puppet butterflies and horses! SWORDS! Oh my god! They gave Amador (as King Arthur) & Patric (as Lancelot) swords and then had them spin around! A coupla other guys too. There were a lot of guys spinning around at one point – with sharp objects – at least I think they were sharp – they flashed and clanked like metal. Wooden swords, dull swords – they don’t clank. These swords – CLANK!

Friends, there are many fantastical and magical aspects of this production – too many to credit everyone that deserves accolades. Projections on layered screens, some of the best sets I’ve ever seen in a Cincy Ballet performance and costuming perfection. That’s before we even get to the dancing.

Some things I would be remiss if I didn’t mention – no particular order:

  • The performance of Charlie Klesa as Young King Arthur in the opening scene, along with the ensemble from the Otto M. Budig Academy as Children of the Realm. I can’t recall any ballet beyond the Nutcracker that put so many children front & center – and I was extremely impressed with their technical performance.
  • Janessa Touchet as Guinevere. She is lovely. Ethereal without the accouterments of magic given other characters. It is her regal air that keeps the innocence present in her “meet cute” with Arthur – a memorable scene in itself with its use of scarf props and a butterfly puppet (given life by Julia Concepcion) – and keeps a tryst with Lancelot passionate where it could have easily taken a turn towards vulgar. Instead it was elegant.
  • Zach Grubbs (Gawain), James Gilmer (Percival) and Rodrigo Almarales (Mordred) deliver wit above and beyond the already clever choreography. Their roles offer passion, testosterone and comic relief rolled up in banded tights and flashing swords. Representing the facets of allegiance – Gawain and Percival in its highest value, Mordred in its disregard – they take the tale of Camelot to a greater level than just that of a love story. Camelot is the tale of unity, bound and then broken, beyond one person’s measure.
  • The projection elements that signified the passage of time in Arthur’s growing up kept interest and livelihood in what could have been a tedious scene.

Some things I would’ve liked to see but didn’t – though I’m no expert:

  • A longer transition between group scenes and the more intimate moments. Sometimes the group scenes were so intricate, with so many dancers onstage simultaneously, that transition to 2-3 person scenes felt rushed. I could’ve used a longer moment to process what I had just witnessed before the mood switch into the next sequence.
  • Again, speaking to transitions, I would’ve liked one more transition in the opening sequence as Arthur goes from boy to king. Having only 2 iterations of Arthur forces the dancer into playing “young” a man who is a respected leader of a country and the man who captures Guinevere’s affections.
  • More contrast between Lancelot and the rest of the knights. This is aside from always wanting to see more of my dance-crush Patric Palkens. Lancelot’s character is an outsider who comes in and sweeps Arthur off his feet – immediately becoming his trusted right-hand. There has to be something different about him that sets up that sense of trust. In this instance, his clothing and choreography blend almost too well into the existing band of brothers.
  • Sometimes the stage seemed a little unnecessarily cluttered with people. Especially the joust scenes. Horses, even puppet horses, take up space. I would’ve liked to see the crowd of dancers at the joust paired down to give more focus to the action. Coco Chanel rule applies here.
  • The ending of Arthur throwing his sword to the stars…meh. A bit cheesy for my taste. I think the point would’ve been made better if the child had – having interacted with Arthur – just laid down the sword. Turned from the bloodshed.

The story of Camelot is complex. Characters of significance are numerous. History and subtext, plentiful. Then there’s the magic – the impossibles which need to be made tangible in performance to get the story told. Morgan has to wander treacherous territory to try and make a 90-minute story physical – one misstep and the telling falls apart. On the whole, this is an incredible interpretation. Never boring. Whimsical and comical at times without losing the overarching tragedy of betrayal. Throughout the entire production, Morgan never lets us lose sight of Arthur – the vulnerability of his trust, and our hope that it is not badly invested. That we can believe with him, in our best possibility.

Especially since we owe him 20 bucks.

_______________

Cincinnati Ballet’s telling of Camelot runs through Sunday, February 16th. The ballet’s next performance will be March 28-29th, Symphony in C (a Balanchine piece) & Boléro (also choreographed by Victoria Morgan).

thoughts?

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