Festival Ballet Providence’s popular UP CLOSE ON HOPE series returns to its black box theatre. This innovative program is made up of four independent pieces – two contemporary, one neoclassical and one romantic, including two world premieres. These shows are the perfect way for audiences to experience different dance styles, and that’s certainly true with this specific lineup.
The evening begins with “Returning Points”, a revival of the contemporary work of choreographer Annabella Lopez Ochoa. This was originally performed by FBP in the fall of 2021, but not in the intimate setting of black box theatre. Created for three women and one man (Friday Night Anna Lisa Wilkins, Fiona Kirkland, Tara McCally and Alex Lantz), the dance is angular and grounded.
The bearing of the arm is often straighter than in classical works, held straighter, and often broken at the wrist, erasing the smooth curve. As each woman is partnered in turn, there are twists and pulls against each other, with an emphasis on forms and touch between the four dancers, especially towards the end of the room. The style fits well with the music of Arvo Pärt, whose Kanon Pokejanen, Ode 1, performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, is haunting and stripped down. “Returning Points” is a good start to the evening.
The second dance, “Pas de Quatre” is a stark contrast to the previous piece, and easily my favorite of the evening. Originally choreographed by Jules Perrot in 1845 for the greatest ballerinas of the time – Lucile Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerritoand Marie Taglioni – it was rebuilt nearly a century later by Sir Anton Dolin. FBP worked closely with the Anton Dolin Foundation, rehearsing via Zoom to ensure the particular style of this piece was done just right. And that’s exactly it.
Eugenia Zinovieva, Nina Yoshida, Brenna DiFrancesco and Kirsten Evans perfectly embody the extreme romantic style that makes this room so charming. There are the very low and elongated ports de bras (compared to even modern romantic style like Giselle’s second act), lots of little antics, and intricate footwork when they dance together. The way they recognize each other with deliberate looks that can best be noticed in the black box theater set. Each dancer also performs a short solo meant to show off the particular strength of the lead ballerina they represent – including some moves not commonly performed in modern times. Here too, the incarnation of each ballerina by the FBP dancers is distinct and moving.
“Amar é” is an ambitious contemporary piece choreographed by Boston Ballet director Paulo Arrais, based on a digital piece he created for that company during the pandemic. To Tchaikovsky’s well-known music for Swan Lake second act pas de deux, Arrais’s piece ignores the binary genre so rooted in classical ballet by setting the piece for two men or two women.
Audrey Lukacz and Tara McCally were the dancers during the Friday night show, but a pair of male dancers perform during some performances. While the women work well together, including a variety of body supports and outright lifts that completely break with the traditional repertoire, as an audience member it was hard to get absorbed in the piece. At times, the movement did not reflect the music well, and the costumes, long-sleeved white shirts with the lower body and feet dressed in bright red, baggy pants and socks – again emphasizing the differences between this piece and the traditional Swan Lake – felt distracting. However, this piece ends well, with a nod to both the connection between the dancers and the fluttering of the bird.
Closing the evening, the neoclassical “Fragments of Hope (Sequence Four)” by Ja’Malik. On the contemporary music of Peter Greyson and Max Richter, this piece features three couples (Nina Yoshida and Azamat Asangul, Eugenia Zinovieva and Mamuka Kikalishvili, Kirsten Evans and Joseph Van Harn) and a soloist (Kobe Atwood Courtney). Ja’Malik created this piece as a bridge between the perception and the reality of ballet and succeeds in capturing this vision.
As a soloist, Kobe Atwood Courtney’s dance is expressive and the perfect choice to open and close the piece. Each duo’s partnership is dynamic, with the choreography a perfect blend of classic and contemporary elements. In a program featuring both dance styles, it was the perfect closing piece.
With only two performances left of this version of UP CLOSE ON HOPE, ditch your previously made plans and catch this show instead!
The remaining performances are Saturday, February 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 20 at 4:00 p.m. For tickets, contact 401-353-1129 or visit festivalballetprovidence.org. All performances require the audience to wear a mask, proof of COVID vaccine, or proof of a negative COVID test.
Photo credits : festivalballetprovidence.org