RICHMOND BALLET: 35th Anniversary Celebration
A Dance Review by Julinda D. Lewis
At: Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Center, 600 East Grace Street, RVA 23219
Performances: September 28 & 29, 2018
Ticket Prices: Starting at $25
Info: (804) 344-0906 or richmondballet.com
The Richmond Ballet celebrated their 35th year as a professional dance company in high style. There were highlights from the past 35 years, choreography by the iconic George Balanchine, appearances by favorite dancers who have retired, acknowledgements of long-time partnerships, video memories from choreographers who have worked with the company, and confetti.
The first half of the program consisted of excerpts from various ballets and moved rather quickly. The evening opened with Jerome Robbins’ Circus Polka¸ with Igor Antonov as the Ringmaster, softly cracking his oversized whip over the baby ballerinas. There were three groups of students from the School of Richmond Ballet – blue, green, and pink – 16 in each group, who danced adorably, ending in the formation of “35!”
Before intermission, we were treated to a retrospective that included Maggie Small and Fernando dancing the balcony pas de deux from Malcolm Burn’s Romeo & Juliet; a light-hearted Titania and Bottom pas de deux from William Soleau’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream danced by Sabrina Holland and Matthew Frain, with Elena Bello as the mischievous Puck; the first and second movements of Val Caniparoli’s contemporary and humorous Stolen Moments; and the playful, folk dance infused finale of Ma Cong’s Ershter Vals. There was also the duet from Jessica Lang’s To Familiar Spaces in Dream¸ performed by Lauren Fagone and Philip Skaggs; and the heartwarming Section IV of Stoner Winslett’s Windows, a work that speaks of hope and the future and ends with a group of dancers whirling around in a circle holding lighted globes. As the dancers peel off, they reveal two little students, a boy and a girl, dressed in white, representing the future. If the evening had ended right there, I would have been satisfied.
There was, however, a second act. George Balanchine’s Who Cares? Was set to 17 songs by George Gershwin (16 of which were listed on this program) and consists mostly of solos and duets that allow various company members to shine in light-hearted, quirky, and often sassy passages of movement that blend ballet and jazz. Elena Bello and Mate Szentes in “’S Wonderful,” Lauren Archer and Fernando Sabino in “The Man I Love,” Eri Nishihara in “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” Maggie Small in “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” Cody Beaton and Trevor Davis in “Who Cares?” and Sabrina Holland in “My One and Only” were personal favorites. The finale features the entire cast dancing to “I Got Rhythm,” played by the Richmond Symphony, under the direction of resident conductor Erin Freeman. It’s always a delight to attend the Richmond Ballet performances at the Carpenter Theatre, where we are promised the special treat of live music.
In addition to video memories shared by Malcolm Burn, William Soleau, Val Caniparoli, Ma Cong, Jessica Lang, and Stoner Winslett, at the top of the show, during her curtain talk, Winslett honored Charles Caldwell with the designation of Richmond Ballet Set Designer Emeritus, and Ron Matson with the honor of Richmond Ballet Conductor Emeritus. There was no proclamation or resolution by the Board of Trustees, but it was also Stoner Winslett’s special day – she nurtured the School of Richmond Ballet into a professional company that carries the designation The State Ballet of Virginia (so designated by then Governor Douglas Wilder in 1990) and has represented us well in New York (2005), London (2012), and China (2015).
Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer who was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Eastern Henrico County.
Photo Credits: Sarah Ferguson