Charlotte Ballet's "Innovative Works" opened on Friday night at the company's Center for Dance in Uptown Charlotte. This performance highlighted new ballet compositions in an intimate atmosphere. "Innovative Works" is slated to run through February 20 and provides a chance for the audience to see the dancers up close in choreography that hasn't been seen before. Another treat is having the time for discussion between artist and audience afterwards while enjoying coffee and dessert. The two-hour program showcases the growing maturity and talent of this world-class ballet and its choreographers.
Friday's program was a mix of works that evoked images of home, of belonging to, of coming from, and of connecting. The show opened with a piece by Dwight Rhoden called "Ballad Unto." Featuring performances by many of the cast, the music of Bach set the stage for classical choreography.
Rhoden attempted to link a particular performance of the Bach Chaconne, (an incredibly famous movement from the composer's Partita No. 2 in D minor) while showcasing through the dancer's movements the intricacy of the polyrhythms occurring in the music. I would have connected better with this work had there been more of a connection between the Bach piano piece that played for the first ten minutes of the ballet and the violin Chaconne that concluded it. Neither of these Bach works or the performers were credited in the program. For the choreographer to have such a bond to this famous solo violin piece, it would have been nice to know the name of the violinist playing it.
Next came a piece by David Ingram entitled "Omologia." The fumbling description by Ingram (appearing on a video introduction) led to a beautiful ballet. Lighting designer Jennifer Probst evoked Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video with dancing golden squares that seemed to respond to the dancer's touch. Corelli's "La Folia" (misspelled in the program as "La Follia") has many rich and varied variations; the choreographer and dancers captured the lightness and solemnity of them well.
Company dancers choreographed the next two works. Sarah Hayes Harkins' "#Hatehurts" captured a delicate subject of Internet bullying well. David Morse's "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" was an athletic embodiment of the music. The title comes from John Adams' very famous piece "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" which was unfortunately left out of the program. The piece is a large-scale celebration of the industrial age, and the dancers, Harkins and Josh Hall were visions of joy and success.
Mark Diamond's work "Yamato" followed. Set to Japanese drumming performed on the recording by a group out of Raleigh, this loud and visceral work screamed power. I loved the contrast of the delicately garbed women dressed in kimonos and on point shoes with the loud and rhythmic pounding drums. The composition of the piece was fluid and mature.
The evening ended with Sasha Janes' Sketches from Grace, an homage of sorts to Jeff Buckley, the genius singer/songwriter/guitarist who died tragically young. Each piece had such sublime moments of beauty. With Buckley being one of my favorite artists, I was especially delighted to hear and see "Lilac Wine" brought to life on stage. Each pair of dancers (which changed on each individual piece) portrayed the deep emotions of this music so well. Janes continues to impress with his choreography. One has the feeling while watching that his choices for movement are just right, as if they had been there the whole time just waiting for someone to conjure them out of his imagination and put them on stage.
For information on the upcoming performances of "Innovative Works" see our sidebar.