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A Midsummer's Night Dream.

At age twenty-three, New York City Ballet dancer Christopher Wheeldon is not as young a choreographer as one might think. Creating his first piece at age eleven while a student at London's Royal Ballet School, he's spent over half his life making dances. With great foresight, Colorado Ballet artistic director Martin Fredmann pulled off the dance coup of the season by commissioning Wheeldon's first evening-length ballet, A Mid-summer Night's Dream.

The result? A lustrous, intensely detailed interpretation of Shakespeare's story set to the music of Mendelssohn, presented February 8-23 at the Auditorium Theater in Denver. With innate wit and musicality, Wheeldon tells the story cleanly, along the way are moments that bloom into magic. Most impressive were the myriad challenges Wheeldon set (greater speed, cohesiveness) and the way the company rose to meet them. All seemed determined to outdance themselves.

When Midsummer's human drama is represented, Wheeldon's choreography is straightforward and often amusing. Hermia walks over a kneeling Demetrius as though he were a stepping stool; Helena, piggyback on Demetrius, belts his, waist with her legs or clutches his ankle as he tries to walk away. The bewitched Lysander and Demetrius both kiss their way up one of Helena's arms; as she wrenches away, their lips meet. Most memorable were Andrew Thompson's sweetly confused Bottom and Maria Mosina's alluring Titania. Thompson neither wastes nor overplays a conlic moment, while Mosina plays this scene with a hint of daffiness.

Wheeldon most successfully weds music and movement in the lush fairy scenes, designed by David Walker (courtesy of Ballet West). A trio of silver fairies (led by the dazzling Sharon Wehner), joined by Puck and two golden male counterparts, toss off an impossibly fast divertissement. Titania and Oberon make their grand entrances -- she's carried aloft from stage right, her immense white train trailing into the wings; he's dressed in gold, accompanied by a quartet of minions bearing his train. At center, they gaze at each other, she confident, he ingratiating, while the glistening corps forms two upstage lines behind them, everyone's arms undulating like some shimmering sea anemone. A later lullaby performed by Titania and her fairy corps is danced with eloquence and an increased sense of precision.

Wheeldon creates some well-rounded characters, giving these dancers room to personalize them. Thus we have Hermia either doggedly determined (as danced by Michelle Dolighan) or sweetly befuddled (Inessa Pakri), opposite Alfredo Lescaille's passionate Lysander versus Edward Stegge's tender one. As Titania, Olga Volobuyeva is a bit aloof, while Dolighan reveals a new depth and serenity, and Mosina is grandly sexy, larger than life. Sandra Kerr makes the most of Helena's feistiness and undying love that gives way to overwhelming distress. Puck (a lyrical Koichi Kubo and a brash Vyacheslav Mesropov) is a bratty little sprite who keeps messing things up. Meelis Pakri and Igor Vassin hit similar notes as Oberon: handsome, sneaky, beautifully placed; both continue the expressive growth they've shown all year. But CB newcomer Dmitri Kouznetsov, while a bit rough around the edges technically, best captures Oberon's hint of menace.

Everything culminates in Titania and Oberon's rapturous pas de deux. Echoing the beginning left-to-right pass in Titania's earlier pas with Bottom, here it progresses to a glorious, tender finale: the two begin as lovers and end as family, when Wheeldon incorporates the Changeling Child (Mira Allmeyer, whose presence belies her small stature) into their duet. The last image goes straight to the heart: Titania rises onto pointe in arabesque, supported at the waist by Oberon. The Changeling takes her out-stretched hand and slowly begins a promenade. Before the glow of an immense moon, Puck streaks across the sky, hovering over them as the curtain falls.
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Title Annotation:Auditorium Theater, Denver, Colorado
Author:Gastineau, Janine
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:May 1, 1997
Words:613
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