Baller-inas: Ballet, Modern, and a Little Bit of Hip-Hop at the CBC Showcase
Written by Bwog Staff
It’s always a pleasure to see the Columbia Ballet Collaborative, and this semester was no exception. The performance group, which was founded to contain just some of the vast ballet talent at our proud talent-filled university, is extraordinarily selective and accepts only professional-level (if not professional) ballet dancers—not to mention the most talented up-and-coming choreographers. Last night the group put on the second show of its fall company showcase with six original pieces at Barnard’s Marion Streng Studio.
The program started off with “Sound in One Movement,” a very lovely ensemble piece featuring Alexandra McGlade and Kara Buckley as soloists to the music of live violinist Philip Wharton playing an original composition. The corps flanked the soloists on either side as they performed a classical-type variation with lots of chaînes and piques en pointe. Once the corps started to dance—”on flat” rather than en pointe—the piece turned decidedly more neoclassical. Dancers crossed the floor with outstretched arms and upturned palms, a more experimental touch to an otherwise traditional piece.
The second piece was farther to the contemporary end of the ballet spectrum, straying much farther from the traditional ballet lexicon though it was set to a recording of Vivaldi. Dancers Elysia Dawn and Amar Ramasar—the latter appearing courtesy of New York City Ballet (!)—wound around each other in black-tie dance costumes, with Dawn performing long, almost sorrowful penchées. Both dancers expressively captured a repeated wave-like outward spiraling motion that seemed to flow from their core to their hands and fingers to poignant effect. This piece was calm and seemed quieter than the first, even beyond the lack of pointe shoes. Both dancers exhibited a supreme quality of movement that lent itself to serpentine but precise steps and sharp gestures in the air.
The third piece fell more in the realm of neoclassical or lyrical dance. Dancers performed in a rainbow of soft pink and yellow costumes. The choreography incorporated intricate recurrent chains of pas de bourrées across the floor that seemed evocative of the famed Dance of the Little Swans. In one moment of particular grace, the entire corps stepped into a pique arabesque in unison and began to dance as one larger unit. Dancers then executed short bits of the signature quick steps and jumps of petit allegro to the music, a song by Joanna Newsom, all while displaying an impressive amount of upper-body control. There was also an aesthetically pleasing use of costume, with a color symmetry in the pas de trois sections. The use of line was also especially interesting in this piece, with cupped hands and delicate positions that were almost reminiscent of hastas and Kathak poses in classical Indian dance.
After a fourth classically balletic piece and a fifth airy dance that made most use of the floor, the program ended with “Palindrome.” It was markedly different from any other that had been showcased thus far. In an unusual combination of forms, CBC’s resident choreographer Emery LeCrone had her dancers perform ballet and modern movements in a hip-hop context. To a fast, jarring, and almost machine-gun like electronic recording, dancers fluidly popped and locked between more fragile and traditional movements, sometimes accelerating those more classical movements to a hip-hop pace. It was very abstract and unexpected, a further reminder how versatile and talented the CBC company members can be. Even in interludes with no music at all, the dancers held focus and danced with a kind of quiet intensity, catching each other’s bodies as they nimbly wove out and around from each other in webs like one giant spiraling organism. Instead of taking the requisite curtsies (or bows, in the case of the danseurs), the dancers continued weaving all the way offstage as the lights went down.
The show was beautiful to watch; this Bwogger’s only complaint was the aforementioned space in which it was held: Barnard’s Streng Studio, which is generally a class or rehearsal space and not an ideal venue for performances of this scale. Especially after seeing the company last year at Miller, this space felt anticlimactic, even if it was just for one of the three performances (which are otherwise taking place at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center vvenue downtown). Otherwise the show was excellent, and the switch back to the larger venue will surely only add to the exquisiteness of the CBC’s fall program.