Carolina Ballet – Master Composers

I was initially disappointed that I wasn’t able get pictures of this ballet, but as I was watching I was glad I could see it for the first time with both eyes open. I’ve seen every ballet that the Carolina Ballet has performed for the last 3 years, and many of their productions before that, and if I could pick one to see again this weekend, it would be Master Composers. Lucky for me it will still be running, so my wish will come true.

Artistic Director Robert Weiss opened by saying he thinks new and original works like this are what Carolina Ballet does best, and I have to agree. These are the ballets I look most forward to.

The program is set up in acts like a story ballet, the story here being simply the progression of music for dance through history. The Prologue, choreographed by Robert Weiss, was a star-studded opening to Polonaise in F Sharp Minor by Frederic Chopin.You can see the influence of the traditional polonaise dance in the simple, highly structured and orderly movement of 12 pairs.

One of my favorites in the program was a solo performed by Elizabeth Ousley to Danse Real by an Anonymous Medieval composer. Her strength, precision and happy face, along with the upbeat bagpipe music made me want to put on chain mail and spill some mead. All by herself she captured the feeling of a gritty medieval celebration.

German Dances (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) choreographed by Zalman Raffael was fast and exciting. It was so fast at times that the partnering resembled manhandling. Rather than being a criticism, this made the ballet more exciting, as the dancers always recovered from the speedy turns and lifts without missing a beat. Principal dancers Lilyan Vigo and Richard Krusch were each spectacular alone, but seemed disconnected from each other as partners.

Robert Weiss’s Ritterballett (Ludwig van Beethoven) was delightful and comically pompous with Oliver Beres, Adam Crawford Chavis and Adam Schiffer prancing like horsemen. Lara O’Brien and Marcelo Martinez together with the prancing horsemen expressed the balance of emotional depth and playfulness, not taking themselves too seriously, that I find in the music of Beethoven.

How many times have I been amazed by a beautiful performance by principal dancer Margaret Severin-Hansen? Yet she still left me awestruck after her pas de deux to Valses Poeticos (Enrique Granados) choreographed by Robert Weiss. Her partner, company member Rammaru Shindo (who also got my attention earlier in the program with Jan Burkhard and Amanda Babayan) was fully up to the challenge of sharing her stage.

Soloist Cecilia Iliesiu’s passionate performance in Hungarian Dances (Johannes Brahms) choreographed by Robert Weiss was nothing short of breathtaking.

Company member Adam Crawford Chavis is a dancer I’ve seen perform many times, but who I saw dancing with new confidence and sophisticated poise in each of his 4 roles in this cast.

I love music, but I rarely listen to music passively. Watching a ballet gives a visual context to a piece of music that can transform your perspective on it or draw out musical elements you’d never noticed. I like to mentally engage with the music, and Master Composers is the perfect ballet for mentally engaging. The scene is set for contemplating subtleties with costumes and lighting that sometimes puts the dancers boldly in front of the music and sometimes blends them smoothly into it. If you aren’t into contemplating subtleties you’ll also find amazing physical feats and lots of variety, so you can sit back and be entertained.

I can’t wait to see it again, and if you like beautiful things you should make sure to see it before it closes this weekend.

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