BALLET CLOSES SEASON WITH GUEST CHOREOGRAPHER
A COVID-conscious Pandemic-appropriate Program
A Dance Review by Julinda D. Lewis
At: The Richmond Ballet, Canal Street Studios, 407 East Canal Street, RVA 23219
Performances: May 11-23, 2021, live and streamed.
Ticket Prices: In-Person Tickets start at $25 [most performances sold out]; Virtual Tickets $20. [NOTE: On the evening of Sunday, May 23rd, virtual ticket buyers will receive an email with information on how to access the performance recording, which will be available to stream for one week. Virtual tickets for Studio Series: May must be purchased by 11:59 PM on Saturday, May 22nd.
(Please note that due to music rights restrictions, we may be unable to stream this program in its entirety.]
Info: (804) 344-0906, etix.com, or richmondballet.com. See the Richmond Ballet’s website for their COVID-19 precautions and more.
some kind of peace
Choreography by Levi Philip Marsman
Music by Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm
Costume Design by Emily Morgan
Lighting Design by Christopher Devlin Hill
World Premiere: May 11, 2021, Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre, Richmond, Virginia
sweet bitter love
Choreography by Carmen de Lavallade
Music sung by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
Costume Design by Geoffrey Holder
Lighting Design by Chenault Spence
Costumes courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
World Premiere: December 7, 2000, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Center, New York
Richmond Ballet Premiere: May 7, 2019, Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre, Richmond, Virginia
excerpts from who cares?
Choreography by George Balanchine
Music by George Gershwin Adapted and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay
Staging by Jerri Kumery
Costume Reconstruction by Tamara Cobus after Original Design by Karinska
Original Lighting Design by Richard Moore
World Premiere: February 5, 1970, New York City Ballet, New York State Theater, New York, New York
Richmond Ballet Premiere: November 14, 1986, Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts, Richmond, Virginia
Concluding its ground-breaking pandemic season, The Richmond Ballet premiered a new work by its first and only guest choreographer of the year. Levi Philip Marsman, Artist-in-
Residence at the Boston Arts Academy, created Some Kind of Peace in response to the loneliness and isolation of 2020. It is a ballet about hope and connection, and the first two sections are fueled by a sense of anticipation and undergirded by the faint sound of a ticking clock. Much of the music comes from Ólafur Arnalds’ recent project of the same name, some kind of peace, and the rest was composed by Nils Frahm.
The cast members all wear leotards in various shades of blue with darker blue sheer overlays. The women’s have slits that allow them to open partially before being shed entirely by the final section. I found the more awkward and less refined movement of the first half more interesting than the smoother, more lyrical phrases that evolved at the end. The social distance and quick stops of the ensemble in the “Personal Space” opening section and Khalyom Khojaev’s solo, “Panic,” which expresses the complexities of being home alone for an extended period of time, were directly influenced by the events of 2020. One audience member summed up the work as being “impactful.”
Marsman’s work was followed by Carmen de Lavallade’s Sweet Bitter Love, conceived initially as a solo for the choreographer to a song by the same name sung by Roberta Flack. De Lavallade later added a song performed by Donny Hathaway, “For All We Know,” to incorporate the male perspective. This transformed the dance into a duet, and she then added and closed with a third song, also sung Flack, “Until It’s Time for You to Go.” Dramatically sustained movement and endless jazz hinges add visual interest to this tale of two lovers who were never meant to be. Cody Beaton and Trevor Davis met the challenge of this non-traditional duet. At times Beaton arched backward until she appeared to be folded in half, and the couple mastered movements initiated from a hip, an elbow, a wrist instead of from the core. But as visually striking as the movement vocabulary may be, the piece is tormentingly sad.
It was both a relief and somewhat jarring to move from two sober and introspective works to George Balanchine’s Who Cares? Balanchine choreographed this jazz ballet to 16 songs composed by George Gershwin between 1924 and 1931, and Richmond Ballet presented ten of them. Bright and fun, the piece opened with the women dancing to “Somebody Loves Me,” followed by the men stepping up with “Bidin’ My Time.” There was a fun duet performed by Eri Nishihara and Ira White and some heel and toe action by Marty Davis before the ensemble finished up with “I’ve Got Rhythm.”
For the first time since returning to the stage last September, some of the dancers were allowed to take off their masks, thanks to vaccinations and the easing of some pandemic restrictions. Yes, it was wonderful to see some smiling faces, but I also felt what seemed like weariness or heaviness. Whether it was from the psychological impact of the first two dances or the physical strain of social distancing and dancing with masks for the past eight months, this program moved me, yet I left feeling oddly weighed down, connected yet concerned.