Dayton Ballet – Streetcar Named Desire
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company – In The Spirit Of: The Spirit Within
As a lover of dance in all of its incarnations, my passion for the art will compel me to seek out every performance that I can find, fit into my schedule and afford. I am owning up to my addiction to dance.
When I discovered that both Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company were both performing, I felt like I scored the biggest fix of my life. Now after my weekend binge, standing in the light of the rising sun I realize that it was not a particularly great batch of…
Part of the pleasure of dance addiction is the almost perverse visceral joy you get by parading your addiction in public. The ritualistic anticipation of the heavy velvet curtain rising to expose a portal to a world of incredible aesthetic beauty inhabited by beings possessing an invigorating super human physicality, what a rush.
The captivating elements of theatricality and music combined with choreographed movement that when it works can leave you breathless. Addiction is about extremes and so I make no apologies for wanting the experience to elevate me.
Dayton Ballet – Streetcar Named Desire
At the Dayton Ballet performance of Streetcar Named Desire and mixed repertory program was the beginning of my “lost” dance weekend, the curtain rose on the first ballet, Freudian Slip. A quartet of ballerinas in gray athletic cut mini dresses with pink under-skirts was the perfect opening work, a delightful minor ballet that provided just enough of an initial rush for the ballet addiction to kick in.
The crisscrossing patterns accented by losses of ballet decorum, movement hiccups that hinted at a desire to break free, was danced by Erika Cole, Erica Lehman, Halliet Slack and Annalise Woller with a subtle precision. I get the sense that the choreographer Mrs. Russo Burke, wants to not play it so safe. I question what is holding her back, more on that later.
This was followed by a presentation of the centerpiece of the evening, a ballet interpretation of Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams seminal drama of lust, brutality, and madness interpreted by the choreography of Mrs. Russo Burke.
The ballet for the most part contained some interesting choreographic passages that effectively portrayed the relationships of the central characters, Stella, Blanche and Stanley. But as the ballet progressed I felt as if the underlying salient sexual tension, which is truly integral to Blanche and her falling into the pit of madness had been stripped away and neutered. I felt sorry for the plight of this Blanche but not devastated for her.
Choreographically, the Pas de deux between Stella and Stanley, (beautifully danced by Erika Cole and Justin Michael Koertgen) set us up perfectly for what is the lynch pin of the play, the sexual brutalization of Blanche at the hands of Stanley. And somehow this was woefully underplayed.
Might I suggest that if this is going to be a part of the repertory of Dayton Ballet under Mrs. Russo Burke’s direction that some time is taken to rework this ballet and give it some teeth. This is one dangerous sexy beast of a story that should make us more than a little uncomfortable. I know it is possible because Mrs. Russo Burke provided us the underlying reason for Blanche’s descent into madness (husband is a closet case and commits suicide) and to display that choreographically was a bold decision.
This was an intimate chamber drama that played more like a Sophia Coppola film, a drama that skirts around the dark matters of the heart when it should have played like the first “Godfather” film, going straight for the visceral sucker punch.
And then came Five Flights Up, a work whose charms utterly failed to inflict its mojo on me. I desperately wanted to like this ballet. The dancers tirelessly gave an energetic performance of the choreography set to songs by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I was completely in their corner, yet it did nothing for me.
All of the elements were there like a choreographic shopping list’ Fun music, check, cheeky partnering sections, check, colorful costumes, check. As the ballet progressed I kept waiting for it to get better as if the high would kick in soon. Wait? Had I gotten a hold of a bag of mediocre dance “chronic”? The choreography played it way too safe. I love repetition and developing a phrase of movement material that resurfaces through out a piece, but to what end if the ballet fails to deliver as a piece of great entertainment? I just could not get past its lackluster construction.
“Basics” like the other ballets on the program hinted at the possibilities what this ballet company could deliver; strong and committed dancing, they could lose some of the rigidity in their upper backs and necks.
A word of advice to Mrs. Russo Burke, as one of my local dance “dealers” In the future I am looking for the best buzz that I can get from being in the audience for a live dance concert, delight me, scare me and don’t be afraid to turn me on. I will do my job to get others hooked on your artistic stuff. Quit diluting your stash, The buzz never fully kicked in when it should have.
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company – In The Spirit Of : The Spirit within
In The Spirit Of : The Spirit within… A cacophonous celebration of dance and gospel music reminded me of church sermons from when I was growing up. The perfunctory duties were up front, shout out to the infirmed, a few hymns sung, passing the collection plate and as the service progressed it finally got to the point of why we were there, a reaffirmation of our faith. The big fiery sermon by a dynamic and captivating pastor was the big payoff. Like the sermons from my childhood we had to witness a lot of perfunctory stuff to get to the big payoff of this concert as well.
Because of my professed dance addictions, this was the perfect scenario. Contemporary dance and gospel music on a Sunday afternoon; what a way to make up for the mild buzz from the Dayton Ballet performance on Friday and great buzz from the Encore Theatre Company presentation on Saturday, “Hot Mess in Manhattan”, How could one not be elated after that workshop performance.
I walked into the Masonic Temple eager for a fix. I knew I was in for an ebullient performance from the company, they have reliably delivered that kind of performance every time before.
The first half of the show contained many individual moments from the quiet beauty of Crystal Michelle’s choreography, the unified and beautiful dancing of the second company of DCDC and the strength of the authoritative choreography of William McClellan Jr. Yet I was left with the sense that this was not the strongest presentation of this dance company’s singular skills. As the stylish lady who sat next to me tersely asked, “What is this?”
The second half to the show delivered what the first half the show could not; Art that was also entertaining and uplifting. From the incredible marriage of choreography and music that was The Central State Men’s Choir and Shonna Hickman Matlock and William McClellan Jr. to the soul stirring sound of Shirley Murdoch and the raise the roof finale (Special shout out to our greatest natural resource, Sheri Williams), I felt the salvation of a masterful sermon about the spiritual power of dance. It was worth the wait but waiting for a fix is never the most comfortable situation to be in.
As with Dayton Ballet, I am sending you a similar but different message Mrs. Blunden-Diggs, make sure that everything that you send out on stage transports the audience to the next level and I will do everything in my power to help get people hooked, but all your stuff has to truly be world class.