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NORTH CAROLINA DANCE THEATRE.

NORTH CAROLINA DANCE THEATRE BLUMENTHAL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA OCTOBER 1-2, 1999 REVIEWED BY SYBIL HUSKEY

An intermission auction, symphonic and choral music performed live, and three premieres exuberantly executed by the eighteen-member North Carolina Dance Theatre heralded the opening of the company's thirtieth-anniversary season. Founded by Robert Lindgren at the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1970, the company moved to Charlotte a decade ago under the artistic direction of the late Salvatore Aiello. Now, with artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and co-associate artistic directors Patricia McBride and Jerri Kumery, the company is proving to be the artistic jewel in the crown of this Queen City.

The world premiere of Bonnefoux's Synergy, a collaboration with nationally known painter Herb Jackson, is a good example of why NCDT is flourishing under Bonnefoux's direction. He understands the connection between artistic ideals and the economic realities of running a company; he finds unique ways to increase audiences and support for dance. While not pushing conservative Charlotte audiences to the sharpest cutting edge, Bonnefoux nudges them in the direction of new dance pleasures.

As with his Looking Through last season, inspired by Mark Rothko's paintings, Synergy also uses visual imagery as its point of departure. Taking the audience inside the creative process, ten stages of Jackson's in-progress paintings are consecutively projected on a mid-stage scrim. Dancers appear underneath, behind, and seemingly within the iterations of the painting, texturing the light-hearted movement motifs like the layered brushwork on the canvas. As the image of the completed painting is projected on the top half of the upstage scrim, the choreographic theme and variations resonate with the abrupt starts and stops of the adapted John Adams score, adding to the deja vu feeling of the time-lapse process. As the abstract painting enlarges to become the backdrop, dancers in cream-colored costumes seem to swirl from its buttery center with jazzy partnering segueing into a Balanchinesque unison finale. Immediately after the rousing curtain call, the painting was auctioned, netting a handsome donation and proving that synergistic effort not only produces good art but is also good business.

Dreamer, choreographed by Alonzo King, took the viewer on an journey of the soul. This world premiere, set to Alan Hovhaness's Mysterious Mountain, explored the struggle of the human spirit between the forces of ignorance and wisdom. The four principals, as well as the ensemble, moved convincingly through shifting spatial patterns of clarity and chaos. Within changing environments created by dramatic lighting effects, kaleidoscopic clusters appeared and dissolved. And, as in a dream, odd juxtapositions and non sequiturs created an engaging, if not somewhat unsettling, experience.

Among the articulate performances two standouts were noted. Jeanene Russell's liquid lyricism, accented by staccato gestures and flicks of her gossamer skirt, made her the perfect essence of the vulnerable "soul." Servy Gallardo, in his first season with the company, used his quick-twitch muscles and lightning-sharp reflexes in the exacting movements representing "struggle."

The Charlotte premiere of Aiello's Magnificat wrapped its arms around the audience in an uplifting work that combined musical visualization with textual interpretation of the Bach score. Accompanied by the Charlotte Symphony with the Oratorio Chamber Singers, the dancers entered and exited the hallowed center space, becoming the visual and kinesthetic embodiment of the celestial vocal landscape.
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Author:HUSKEY, SYBIL
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:547
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