This Friday, Arts Editor Riva Weinstein attended the dress rehearsal of Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s Spring Performances. The show featured work by Jerome Robbins, 5 original choreographers and 23 talented student dancers.
Dressed in black leotards and pink skirts, five dancers lounge around the onstage piano, their energy concentrated in the tips of their feet. Spontaneously – as if buffeted by the wind – they leap up in twos and threes to pirouette around the stage. Were it not for their breathing audible from the first row, it would be impossible to tell how much effort was put into the feather-light dance. This is 5+ Bach, by choreographer Michele Wiles, the first of six dances in CBC’s Spring Repertoire.
Hailed as one of the finest student groups for emerging talent in ballet, CBC spent the semester developing five dances, collaborations between professional and student choreographers and their dancers. The result is an electric mix of traditional and modern-inspired ballet set to classical music, eerie atonal compositions, and in one case, a cover of Hozier’s Cherry Wine.
Though all the original compositions were impressive, they failed to overshadow the third dance: Antique Epigraphs, by the legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins. Eight dancers in airy, flowing dresses drift around the stage, their delicate poses calling to mind a statue garden come to life. As the music grows more ominous, their movements become more urgent. Like the forest nymphs of myth, they are as dangerous as they are beautiful. The dance exudes a strange nostalgia for the Classical world of the Renaissance imagination – the world of Primavera and Birth of Venus, full of innocence and mysterious power.
The more modern-inspired pieces, like Toe the Line and Antlitz, were deeply compelling. Toe the Line, by Caili Quan, calls to mind a group of puppets teaching themselves to walk – testing the movements of their bodies, leaping in and out of possession. Antlitz, by Miro Magliore, passes uncanny and verges on the unnatural. To a discordant score of violin and piano, dancers in black leotards slowly intertwine and extricate. I am reminded of a production of The Tempest I once saw, in which the monstrous Caliban is played by two actors in a constant state of gruesome tangling: a single consciousness spread across multiple heads.
The final two performances, And Counting and Moments of Clarity Passing as Answers (by student choreographers Allegra Herman and Connor Yockus), were the least memorable of the performances, but still impressive works. And Counting featured a large ensemble of dancers moving dynamically to a live guitar score. I found it difficult to discern the concept of this dance, though some of the well-coordinated marching and clapping movements suggested a group gearing up for revolution. Moments of Clarity’s intense score and bright red lighting complemented the urgent, individualistic movements of its five dancers. I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of an epic story, wishing I knew more about its characters.
CBC’s commitment to original choreography, live musicians, and talented dancers combined to produce a highly competent and enjoyable show. Whether you’re a dance connoisseur or not, head down to the Miller Theater this weekend to get a taste of the next big thing in ballet.
See CBC’s Spring Performances tonight at 8 PM or Sunday at 3 PM in the Miller Theater. Tickets $10 with CUID.