Carolina Ballet’s current program, Monet Impressions presents two original ballets inspired by paintings by French impressionist painter Claude Monet.
Picnic on the Grass, choreographed by principal guest choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, is an extroverted ballet, as cheerful as a dance number in a Broadway show. Taylor-Corbett gives Monet’s subjects in Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe lives that begin prior to the picnic and culminate at the picnic as depicted in the painting. This ballet clearly tells a story, but it does not tell a story clearly. I was able to determine some familial relationships and love between characters, which is satisfying enough. The story, as noted in the program insert, is inspired by events from Monet’s life. The roles are unsurprising. There’s a wife, a flirt with several suitors, a mysterious uncle, a bride and a groom; all based on types we expect to see depicted on stage representing various expected stages of life. But this doesn’t prevent the ballet from being interesting. The sequence of short pas de deux and pas de trois is fun and varied. The playful pas de trois of the Flirt with her Suitor and his Rival, danced by Amanda Gerhhardt, Jayson Pescasio, and Luke Potgieter, is youthful and exciting and full of impressive grande allegro (those large fast jumps) by all three. Yevgeny Shlapko as the Mysterious Uncle has a jazzy style, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin at times. And some of my favorite moments are those in haunting stillness when the dancers pose as a reminder that their lives exist only in a painting.
The Gardens at Giverny choreographed by Artistic Director Robert Weiss is a beautifully introspective depiction of a series of paintings. It is an abstract immersion into the color and light used by Monet to give the appearance of movement in his paintings. With music of Claude Debussy and Ernest Chausson, this ballet is the whole impressionist aesthetic package. Kiefer Curtis and Alyssa Pilger partnered as the Artist and a Cloud in Part III: The Clouds. Together they were as certain and effortless as a breeze. The parting clouds allow a beam of light through to highlight the pair. Add to this the voices of the Women’s Chorus and the scene is transcendent. In Part VI: The Water Lilies Ashley Hathaway and Marcelo Martinez partnered as a Pair of Waterlilies. Martinez is a powerful presence on stage and Hathaway’s graceful strength was not overshadowed. Strength abounds; this scene also features the voice of Mezzo Soprano Jennifer Seiger. Yevgeny Shlapko’s performance as the Artist in several parts was masterfully unique; he has a movement style that is so endearingly odd. The lighting by Ross Kolman and color effects achieved through set design by Jeff A.R. Jones and costume design by David Heuvel contribute a lot to the impressionist styling for Gardens at Giverny. These aspects worked so much in coordination with the choreography that it was as if the dancers were born out of the colors first conjured by Shlapko as the Artist in the beginning of the ballet.
This performance is presented with live music by the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, thanks to a generous donation to the Carolina Ballet from Steve and Judy Zelnak. I am a fan of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. Their full, brassy sound was an unexpected treat!
Have you seen it? I would like to know what you thought of these ballets!