Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 4:34 am | Fair 50º


Liam Burke: State Street Ballet Young Dancers Make All the Right Moves

'Celebration of Dance' at the Lobero Theatre showcases the talents of 30 dancers with ambitious choreography, both classical and modern

With unprecedented diversity, the State Street Ballet Young Dancers, the apprentice company to the State Street Ballet, leaped confidently into new territory at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday.

This “Celebration of Dance” showcased the talents of 30 dancers, and they truly celebrated ambitious choreography of the classical and modern kind. It was in the modern work that the audience experienced something completely fresh and original, as the choreography came at you, piece by piece — each as daringly different and thoroughly engaging as the next.

Opening with variations from The Sleeping Beauty, the classical ballet work here was authentic and very good, pushing the dancers into roles that normally go to soloist and principal dancers in major classical companies. It was a calculated choice on behalf of directors Allison Gustafson and Nicole Comella because the variations require a high level of classical technique, good timing skills, character acting and virtuoso flair. But it also allowed the audience, first-timers or ballet lovers alike, not just a slice of dance history, but a visual marker about the level of difficulty we were watching, starting with the hardest.

The dancers employed extreme concentration skills to get through the difficult classical repertoire, but as the evening progressed, so, too, did their assurance rise.

There were too many performances to mention, but Jade Barrad as the Lilac Fairy handled the exceptionally difficult solo with confidence and grace. Barrad is a dancer to watch, not only for her lyrical interpretation and immaculately neat footwork, but because she commands the stage with that undeniable “born to dance” quality.

Francesca Gonzales, the White Cat, also excelled with feline grace and comical timing, as she prudishly slapped the wandering hands of Joel Sterken, her Puss N’ Boots, rousing the audience to laughter throughout this pas de deux.

The principal role of Aurora and her Prince, danced by Karina Biancone and Jameson Keating respectively, was handled very well also, although the understandable sighs of relief were evident at the end of the strenuous choreography.

The second work on the program was the wonderfully modern “Papillon,” choreographed by the brilliant Josie Walsh. With white sheets wrapping cocoon-like around the dancers and flung across the floor, a whole new element of movement was born in the space. This piece has been selected for the National Dance America Festival in Montreal, Canada, and it’s no wonder Walsh is on Dance Magazine’s list of “25 to Watch.”

After the intermission came the most surprising part of the show as student choreographers took to the stage. Karina Biancone’s “Percolation,” Fiona Chandrasekaran’s “Broken Wind,” Sabrina Mulac’s “Spring” and two pieces by the sassy and entertaining Casey Venturelli all showed choreographic promise in abundance. These gifted (mostly) teenagers chose diverse pieces of music and created unique works, each with surprising and altogether new dance languages. They also made excellent use of the pre-teen dancers in the group, revealing the solid uniformity that exists through the ranks of this youth company.

Closing the evening was Rodney Gustafson’s “Transformations,” a modern work en pointe for 10 girls and two young men. The variegated patterns and choreography were handled expertly, and by this point in the evening, all of the dancers looked completely at ease and at their best.

Rukako Takahashi danced with outstanding polish and pizzazz, her love of dance sending palpable waves across the stage and into the audience. The young men, Keating and Sterken, affected the audience, too, as they hovered in the air with such control that you know they, too, will have professional careers. With beautiful costumes by Anaya Cullen, Gustafson’s work gave us the final and lasting impression that this young company is moving and changing with the dancing times like no other in the region.

Kudos to all the choreographers and directors for chipping away at the block of artistic and technical excellence, and for providing young dancers with the kind of performing opportunities and challenges they will need to forge a career in the discerningly arduous profession of dance.

Noozhawk contributing writer Liam Burke covers dance and has been published in Dance Magazine, Dance Australia and The James White Review. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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