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Columbia Ballet Collaborative: Spring 2019 Review

Elle Ferguson here again, shouting her opinions into the void that is

Columbia Ballet Collaborative, known as “CBC”, performed their semesterly showcase last weekend in the Miller Theater. This group is unofficially the most advanced ballet club on campus and has received praise from notable press organizations such as Dance Magazine, The New York Times, and Ballet Talk. This semester they performed six original pieces by professional choreographers in collaboration with their dancers.

The first piece to hit the stage was “Sonatas, for Lee” choreographed by Durante Verzola. This work stayed true to the classical form of ballet, rotating between group dances, solos, and a pas de deux. Verzola’s piece featured very energetic dancers who performed their solos extremely well, although I thought the group coordination left something to be desired. Still, I think this piece could be described aptly as “short and sweet,” and served as a nice introduction to the rest of the performance.

Next a returning choreographer, Morgan McEwen, worked with CBC for her second time to create a modern work called “Barrier.” The beginning of McEwen’s piece may have reminded you of the Miller performances last weekend, if you saw them. The dancers began with no music, only the sound of rain and them slamming their feet and hands on the floor. At first I was wary it would become another weird modern piece that no one understands, but then really beautiful music came on (Heart of Glass, Crabtree remix, by Philip Glass) and the dancers went through a sequence of solos that were simply stunning. This one turned out to be one of my favorites.

The following piece, “Traveling West,” could be described as a light-hearted, flow-y dance with tropical beach vibes. Interesting music and choreography, and definitely unique among the other works in its mood.

The dance right after the intermission was a modern piece called “In the Dark I Felt Her Dreams” which sounds like a girl from 2014 on tumblr but I loved it so so much. The dancers worked together really well, showed a lot of intimacy with one another, the music was gorgeous, and the choreography demonstrated so much grace. The only shortcoming of this piece is that it was so short.

“In Melody,” the next work returned the audience to the more classical roots of ballet but still showed artistry and originality as much as the other pieces. This word was a lot like “Sonatas, For Lee” in its structure and choreography.

The last piece of the night was a unique experience for me as it was the only time I’ve seen ballet choreography to electric-style video game music. The opening bars literally sounded like if the musician who wrote “Tetris” tried to play an organ — then it only got weirder (and more fun) as a couple danced to a soundtrack piece from Mario Brothers. Ending with the whole ensemble dancing to “Take on Me,” this was the most fun, entertaining, hilarious, and original use of ballet/modern choreography that I’ve seen all semester. I simply loved this piece — the music and the humor made it accessible to all audience members as well. And, despite there being more cast members in this piece than in any other, the dancers worked well in unison and in their formations.

When asked about the unusual choice in music, Clara Monk (CC ‘20), a cast member in the piece said “Nadia Vostrikov’s piece was one of the funnest pieces I’ve done with CBC. Ballet to video game music — why not?! It felt great to close the show with such fun energy.” Indeed it closed the show with infectious positivity and left most people (me) humming Take On Me for the next few decades.

CBC dancers in rehearsal. Image via Sandy Zeng

Images via Sandy Zeng

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