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Bringing Ballet Back To Bwog

Those overzealous kids in your CC class

Those overzealous kids in your discussion section

After dabbling in déboulés (amongst other things) last year, Deputy Dance Dynamo Mason Amelotte couldn’t help but lunge at the opportunity to review Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s annual fall showcase. He thusly offers his thoughts and opinions on last night’s opening performances.

Avid balletomanes took to Lincoln Center last evening to see the first of two annual fall performances put on by Columbia Ballet Collaborative (CBC for short), a student group within both Columbia & Barnard that is “committed to enriching the arts in the Columbia community and providing a platform for the collaboration between professionals in the New York dance community and Columbia University students.”

Upon my early arrival, I discovered a surprisingly long line of people waiting to enter the performance space. I quickly reminded myself that of course there would be people here who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to ballet, after all, this is New York. Some guests that hadn’t purchased tickets in advance requested they be put on a waitlist, hoping that a seat would free up before the start of the show. Seeing this led me to presume this year’s showcase would eclipse that of last year’s, at the very least in terms of attendance. By 8 o’clock last evening, my suspicion was confirmed: each and every seat in the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center performance space was full, and for very good reason.

The show consists of six pieces, five of which are choreographed by a separate choreographer and one of which is taught by a répétiteur. The show includes works by choreographers Avi Scher, Donna Salgado, Robert LaFosse, Connor Yockus, CC ’18, Morgan McEwen, and George Balanchine, whose piece was taught by répétiteur Deborah Wingert.

Each piece displays its very own unique flavor. The simplest way to describe Scher’s In Her Skin, set to Bach’s English Suite No. 2, is through the image of eight dancers each pushing their steps to be more allégro than the next. Salgado’s Imparted Audacity has dancers outfitted in Janelle Monae meets Beyoncé-like black and white fitted blazers. Allusions to the world of high-fashion runway modeling are strategically utilized in this performance, which is set to music by Sun Glitters (think of the music from the Wii Shop Channel). LaFosse’s La Valse de L’Amour fits more in line with classical ballet, as six dancers in formation surround your archetypal male/female duo. Though the piece has a slow beginning, it eventually picks up in the end. McEwen’s The Shape of Voice is perhaps the most confusing piece of the evening, and is fittingly placed at the end of the showcase. Animalistic movements overwhelms each dancers limbs, as rhythmic moans blast on the speaker system. Despite a uncomfortable theme of discordance in the piece, the work as a whole shows true artistry on behalf of the choreographer.

An obvious standout is Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, taught by Wingert and performed by Shoshana Rosenfield,  BC ’15 (Fall), and James Shee, GSAS, both of whom are clearly seasoned in the art of ballet. Strategically placed immediately before intermission, this piece serves as the focal point of the evening. Rosenfield and Shee beautifully complement one another in their rhythm, each exhibiting their own strengths in their solo movements: Rosenfield in her incredible series of pirouettes and Shee in his sky high tour en l’air. It’s impossible to ignore these two’s carefully calculated gracefulness and natural composure in the midst of movement.

Of the six dances in the showcase, Whitey Tighty is the only one choreographed by a Columbia undergraduate. One would be able to tell this were the case, if not already obvious in the program’s choreographer biographies, by the foreword offered in the piece’s description: “The ballet world is plagued by sexism, heteronormativity, and racial divides, among other things. This piece aims to highlight these problems within ballet – problems that usually go unexamined and problems that challenge the iconic nature of classical ballet.” The piece itself is an exciting journey back and forth between Butler library and Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Yockus draws on his vast knowledge of dance styles, which includes training in “ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, tap and hip-hop.” In blending different styles and interpretations of ballet, Whitey Tighty further proves itself as a strong example of a meaningful, modern ballet piece.

Overall, the Collaborative’s fall showcase suggests real promise for future performances, especially when one considers the fact that this student-run organization was conceived merely eight years ago. To buy tickets to the second and final performance, visit CBC’s website here.

Photo via CBC Fall 2015 Performances Facebook event

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