Thanks to an admirable, new initiative of the non-profit Live Arts Global, Christine Shevchenko, Melanie Hamrick and Joanna DeFelice presented a beautiful 'Night at the Ballet,' featuring some of the best ballet dancers from across several major institutions.
The online, free event opened with a sincere and heartfelt introduction by Shevchenko, followed by a classical ballet performance, The Nutcracker Grand Pas de deux, by Crystal Serrano and Aran Bell. The piece was performed as choreographed by Lev Ivanov on Tchaikovsky.
Serrano and Bell were the perfect opening dancers; they immediately set the mood for both the festive season as well as ballet with their measured, graceful and joyful moves. The turns of Serrano, guided at the waist by Bell, were lovely and expertly done, and their bows were possibly the most graceful among all dancers that we saw. Their finishing pose prior to Bell's solo was particularly gorgeous, as well as Bell's beautiful solo itself. Serrano and Bell's performance was most noteworthy among all for evoking a strong feeling of a real, classic winter night at the ballet, that too from the get-go. Together, they firmly set a great tone for the show.
The next piece was After The Rain, performed by Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III, and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon on Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt. After The Rain was one of the two contemporary pieces included in A Night at the Ballet. Phelan and Royal III made innovative use of touch to convey deep emotions, constantly shifting scenes, and a moving sense of connection; all of which had the powerful effect of slowing down time on stage. The complex and highly creative choreography was pulled off brilliantly by the two dancers. It was amazing to see the numerous ways in which Phelan and Royal III glided between the lines of stillness and movement to create visceral, emotional, free-flowing dance. It was as if the two dancers had poured all of themselves onto the stage, and were now moving effortlessly like water.
Then, the idea of storytelling through dance was further elevated during the show with the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas de deux by Christine Shevchenko and Aran Bell. Every moment that Shevchenko and Bell spent on stage was gorgeous and faultless; classy and excellent; and with the final parting kiss, raw and authentic; with a gift of surprise. From start to finish, this performance could easily serve as a textbook example of how one could use traditional, classical ballet to masterfully depict a literary scene during a show.
Next was On the Subject of Grace by Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Kirven Douthit-Boyd. This piece was choreographed by Geoffrey Alexander to music by Chopin. Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Kirven Douthit-Boyd were found expertly playing with various norms related to costumes, choreography, and pas de deux pairings that are usually seen in traditional ballet. The Douthit-Boyds glided in wearing regular shirts, pants and socks on stage; looking like anyone of us watching A Night at the Ballet from our homes. Except, of course, they were not like us because of the beautiful ballet that they do. While the visual presentation was norm-shattering by itself, the choreography shattered it more; the Douthit-Boyds' duet was the most relatable performance because of the emphasis on natural movements; their dance felt familiar- like soul food- even for those audience-members who are not familiar with the vocabulary of ballet. The dancers made it look effortless, captivating, and calming; doing a great job in bringing the dance closer to the audience.
Next was Flower Festival performed by Sarah Lane and Daniel Ulbricht to music by Edvard Helste. The piece was choreographed by August Bournonville. Lane and Ulbricht's piece was pure, unadulterated joy. It brought smiles on faces in the audience, and was the most mood-uplifting piece. The performance was classic, traditional, sweet and charming. The costumes of the two dancers did a particularly good job of highlighting their moves and roles within their performance. While Lane was the pretty lady pirouetting across the stage, Ulbricht was the perfect partner; matching her delightful, joyous steps with his own.
The next piece was Dying Swan, a solo by Christine Shevchenko, to music by Camille Saint-Saens from Carnival des Animaux.
This piece was choreographed by Michel Fokine. Here, we saw a poignant, skilled performance from Shevchenko which was further highlighted with beautiful lighting and camerawork. Shevchenko's brilliance lies in her ability to make every moment and expression work for her. She is feminine, poised and elegant. But she is also able to fully captivate the audience with the way she faces and emotes for the audience; on stage, she seems to be a model, an actor and a dancer, all at once; and that is, perhaps, what makes her dance so extraordinary.
The finale of the show was Don Quixote Pas de deux performed by Christine Shevchenko and Julian MacKay. This piece was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky with music from Ludwig Minkus. We loved the charismatic movement style of MacKay combined with the elegant poise of Shevchenko. The youthful, charming, gallant and chivalrous stage personality of MacKay was brilliantly personified by the dancer; he radiated an energy of his own; becoming the dance rather than just performing it. His solos brimmed with flair. The duet choreography made brilliant use of masterful techniques during small moments throughout the performance that truly elevated the classical ballet performance; bringing a great finish to the show.
The presenters must be applauded for making a very balanced and thoughtful selection of extraordinary dance; constantly alternating between contemporary and classical styles of ballet, as well as between the identifiable moods of joy and celebration to other almost unnamable ones. In the space of an hour, we experienced a sense of festivity as well as saw an artistic portrayal of "dying;" with several other unique takes on life and ballet in between.
All in all, A Night at the Ballet was a beautiful, enriching show. ■