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EUGENE BALLET COMPANY.

EUGENE BALLET COMPANY SILVA CONCERT HALL, HULT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS EUGENE, OREGON OCTOBER 23-24, 1999 REVIEWED BY MARTHA ULLMAN WEST

Eugene Ballet's season-opening concerts were a glorious celebration of dance and dancing, replete with spectacle, color, and sheer joy.

Company artistic director Toni Pimble is that anomaly in the ballet world: a choreographer who knows her own worth but does not trumpet it. An evening devoted to her ballets is rare, but each of the three pieces (one a revival, the other two premieres) on the October program was a revelation of invention and mastery of craft. While common phrases ran through all three, each piece was different, each one exemplifying a vocabulary that is increasingly eclectic and a vision that is more richly textured with each new piece.

Skinwalkers (1995) is, wisely, not a pointe piece. The movement for this tribute to Southwest American culture was developed with longtime company member Jennifer McNamara, and while the uplifted arms of the women and the high leaps of the men bear little resemblance to earthbound tribal dancing, the traditional circular patterns were used to stunning effect. What the shape of the movement resembled most was Anasazi art, the ancient petroglyphs found in such holy places as Arizona's Canyon de Chelly.

South African composer Kevin Volans's score provided a rhythmic structure for the dancing as well as a windswept, desert mood, but Pimble's focus here is intensely visual. Each of the seven sections is based on a painting by Helen Hardin, a distinguished Native American artist. The smashing set and costumes were by Lynn Bowers and Marty Nelson, and Lloyd Sobel's lighting was highly evocative of the Southwest's changing skies.

Pimble and Sobel are longtime collaborators whose shared vision really came to the fore in glistening Silk and Steel, a medieval revel of dancing, music, and color (see photo Contents, page 10).

The opening was physically risky for the dancers, for whom silk and steel were. metaphors. Whirling long silk ribbons, they sped across the stage, their dancing both seamless and strong. The period tone was set immediately by Pimble's own taped collage of medieval and Renaissance music, Amy Panganiban's cleverly pared-away hoop skirts for the women and puffed-sleeved tunics for the men, and Sobel's magical lights, which in this first scene suggested a castle wall.

A series of duets, trios, and quartets followed, the dancers moving rapidly against often slow, measured music, using props made of the title materials.

Like Skinwalkers, Silk had no pretentions toward authenticity and replication, which freed Pimble and her collaborators, the dancers among them, to create an eclectic work in the spirit of their own time. T'ai chi was mixed with ballet; athleticism with court dancing; acrobatics with modern movement.

First Meeting, a pas de deux set to music by Sir Edward Elgar, romantically introduced a new principal couple, Sylvia Poolos and Maxim Tchernyshev. These dancers, like the rest of the company, are indeed made of silk and steel ... and gold.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:WEST, MARTHA ULLMAN
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Feb 1, 2000
Words:497
Previous Article:LES BALLETS AFRICAINS.
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