Growing up as a serious ballet dancer, Suzanne Farrell was one of my biggest idols – she still is. Last night, I couldn’t believe I was so lucky to be sitting in the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center, watching amazing Balanchine choreography performed with style, grace, and pure perfection by The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Program A is an evening of ballet you won’t want to miss!
We open with company premiere Danses Concertantes, full of color, flair and talent. Soloists Elisabeth Holowchuk and Kirk Henning dance saucily, playfully welcoming the audience, to Stravinsky’s Danses Concertantes played flawlessly by The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. The vibrant color in this movement, with costume design by Holly Hynes (inspired by the original design by Eugene Bermann), distinguishes the trios of dancers in green, magenta, blue, and red. There was a large creative effort for this piece, including the assistant to Holly Hynes – Kathleen McAllister, fabric painting and dying by Jeff Fender, costumes executed by John Kristiansen New York Inc., scenery design by Eugene Bermann, scenery executed by Scenic Art Studios, and lighting design by Jeff Bruckerhoff.
Each trio, consisting of two women and one man, represents different parts of the music. The intertwined movements of the trio wearing magenta match the slower pace of the score, and the frolicking of the trio in warm red match the upbeat, jazzy tempo of the music played splendidly by the orchestra. The 8 women and 4 men in this movement shine individually onstage while moving together, with wonderful extension in arabesque, quick hip pops, fast footwork, and inviting facial expression: Jessica Lawrence, Nancy Richer, and Emanuel Abruzzo; Amber Neff (dancing in place of Amy Brandt tonight in this piece), Melissa Reed, and Andrew Shore Kaminski; Jane Morgan, Jordyn Richter, and Ted Seymour; Katie Gibson, Melanie Riffee, and Ian Grosh. I loved the personality that came through each dancer in this piece, the choreography that merged traditional ballet technique with jazz.
After an intermission, we are introduced to the beautiful, emotional company premiere Intermezzo from Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet with principals Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook taking flight in a tender pas de deux to Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25. Katherine Gibson, Jane Morgan, and Jordyn Richter (dancing in place of Amy Brandt tonight in this piece) flutter about like flowers in flowy, feminine, pastel pink (costume design by Judanna Lynn, costumes made possible through an agreement with Pacific Northwest Ballet). Lighting design by Jeff Bruckerhoff shines soft light on the iridescent curtains and creates a cool blue backdrop, creating a romantic setting which enhances the swells in music and the choreography.
One of my favorite moments was a loving embrace between Magnicaballi and Cook, as the three women move in perfect sync, so light on their feet, matching the lightness of the music. The music swells and carries them all through the air as all four women dance together. I have to confess, I cried because this entire movement was danced so beautifully.
After a brief pause, the third movement, Valse-Fantaisie begins as a breathtaking company premiere that made me put down my pen, amazed. Heather Ogden is absolute perfection. Pavel Gurevich has incredible technique and long lines. Together, these principals command the stage upon entrance with the music of Mikhail Glinka’s Valse Fantaisie in B Minor. They delight in dancing with each other and entertaining the audience. Cleopatra Avery, Jessica Lawrence, Nancy Richer, and Amy Saunder dance gloriously in gorgeous long green tutus (design by Larae T. Hascall, made possible through an agreement with Pacific Northwest Ballet) with fancy footwork, height, and extension. Lighting design by J. Russell Sandifer accentuates. Every dancer has a sparkle in their eyes that radiates to the balcony like starlight. Pure joy.
After the second intermission, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue is presented as entertaining, funny, and a great close to the show. The very full house laughs out loud throughout in support. Music by Richard Rodgers (from the musical On Your Toes, 1936), re-orchestrated by Hershey Kay, has a jazzy, big band feel and an upbeat swing, and it’s vigorously performed by the impressively energetic orchestra. I loved every minute of this plot-filled, storytelling buffet with 21 dancers (many of the above mentioned dancers along with Oliver Swan-Jackson, James Folsom, John Michael, Peter Doll, Dylan Keane, Jordan Nelson, Miriam Ernest, and Evan Reynolds) dressed to the nines (costume design by Holly Hynes) in clever period costumes.
The warm lighting design with excellent transitions designed by J. Russell Sandifer, the set (courtesy of Cincinnati Ballet), and the scenic design by Jay Depenbrock, place us in a burlesque-like joint with a full bar, stage, and flashy lights hanging from above. Elisabeth Holowchuk (Strip Tease Girl) lets her hair down, literally, and radiates a sassy, sultry energy as she dances with Kirk Henning (Hoofer), who was fantastic at portraying the story through his expressions and dancing, donning tap shoes and sailing through complicated choreography. This is a true crowd-pleaser.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including two intermissions.
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Program A plays through November 11, 2012 at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater – 2700 F Street NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the box office at (800) 444-1324.