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Columbia Ballet Collaborative: Fall 2019 Performance

Bwogger Eliza Staples went to Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s Fall Performance, which was a beautiful display of skill and artistry here on campus. 

On Sunday, November 24th at 2 pm and 7 pm, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative presented their Fall 2019 performances. There were five original pieces and one restaging, choreographed by Emily Coates, Eve Jacobs, Emily Kikta, Fredrick Earl Mosley, John Selya, and Sarah Yasmine Marazzi-Sasson (BC ‘22). The performances were held in the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, a beautiful space that only enhanced the art that the dancers and choreographers had produced. 


CBC was founded in 2007 by five professional ballet dancers attending Columbia. The group seeks to establish artistic partnerships between Columbia students and New York City dance professionals. One way they do this is through the Choreographer Mentorship program partners student choreographers with professional choreographers. This semester, Sarah Yasmine Marazzi Sassoon worked with professional choreographer Claudia Schreier to create her piece in this performance. 


The first piece, “Waiting in the Rain for Snow” (set to eponymous music), was choreographed by Emily Kikta, a member of the New York City Ballet’s corps de ballet since 2011. The music for this piece alternates between harried and smooth, and the dancers take these shifts in stride. There is an ensemble of dancers in black leotards, interspersed with dancers in blue. I was especially struck by the fluidity of movement of this latter group: they would take the stage in groups of two or three, then smoothly exit as another duo or trio would emerge from the wings. This gave the piece a seamless quality. As a whole, the choreography is dynamic, and the dancers deftly utilize a variety of levels. It never feels choppy or rushed.


“Off the Record” was choreographed by John Selya, who danced with the American Ballet Theatre for over a decade, and has choreographed such Broadway shows as “Guys and Dolls” and “Damn Yankees”. At the beginning, a dancer clad in a striped blouse enters in silence and places a record on an imaginary record player- “Andante” from Mendelssohn Violin Concertos. She begins to move, swept away by the music, accompanied by two other dancers performing a breathtaking pas de deux. Their movements were lyrical and smooth, and I was struck by the musicality of each dancer. The pas de deux and the solo functioned fully independently of one other, which lent the piece visual variety. 


At times, members of a larger ensemble would enter, taking the places of one of the three original dancers. Their role at first seemed a little unnecessary, and I did not feel that they added much to the piece as a whole. But then, one dancer of this ensemble enters holding a new record, and “Running With the Night” by Lionel Richie fills the room. At this point, the members of the ensemble come into their own. The choreography is jazzy and athletic, reminiscent of a scene from the musical “Fame”, where young performing arts students pour their hearts into what they do. I was swept away by the dancers’ dynamism, but also by their versatility: just moments ago performing a classical ballet adagio, they now leaped to life in an entirely different style. 


Emily Coates, who has performed with New York City Ballet and helped develop the interdisciplinary dance curriculum at Yale, choreographed “Afterlives, or a History of Light Part 2”. The dancers first enter while laughing and chatting, but at the start of the music, they suddenly fall silent. This unusual start and rapid transition grabbed my attention. 


In this piece, I was particularly struck by moments of unity. At one point, the dancers are all standing in 5th position, looking steely-eyed out at the audience, when dancers begin falling away to the floor, leaving one dancer standing alone. Eventually, the ensemble stands, one by one, and goes to join the lone dancer. The result is a cohesive unit, standing the closest they have yet, seeming to challenge the audience with their collective gaze. Duos and trios then dance together, and at many points, the dancers would be fully supporting their castmates’ weight in a variety of spectacular lifts and balances. It was in these moments where the ensemble moved together to support one another, figuratively and literally, that I fully saw this group’s chemistry and cohesion. 


The fourth piece, “Impossible Mirror”, was choreographed by Eve Jacobs, who trained at Julliard and performed with the illustrious company Jessica Lange Dance. The first song was “Twisted” by Joni Mitchell. The dancers, arranged in a group and wearing neutral-toned slip dresses, made me feel as though I had walked in on an upscale, jazzy cocktail party. Dancers would emerge from the larger group one by one and perform upbeat flawless solo pieces. 


The music changes to “Chopinesque” by Jon Batiste, and the lighting changes to reflect this more somber piece. Three pairs of dancers are seated around the stage, with one dancer in each pair mirroring the movements of the other. A particularly striking visual image was the dancers in a horizontal line, all looking up at their hand raised in the air. This movement of the hand was a beautiful motif to watch throughout the piece. At many points, there was great diversity in the types of movement on stage: you could look at any part of the stage and see dancers performing different choreography. However, it never felt discombobulated.  Although there was a striking change in mood when the song switched, the dancers’ evident energy and passion deftly carried the audience from one style to the next. 


Sarah Yasmine Marazzi-Sassoon (BC’22) choreographed “on the last day”. This was set to four pieces of music: “Cow Song”, “Fear of Starlight”, “Guernica”, and “Larks Tongue”.The piece begins with one dancer, encircled by others, who breathe and move in unison like a single lung. The dancers in the circle slowly descend to the floor, one by one. The dancer in the center approaches another dancer and together they perform a beautiful pas de deux. During this pas de deux, a dancer is suspended mid-leap for several moments. This allowed the audience to fully take in the beauty of this movement and the dancers’ artistry. Throughout the piece, there was a motif of one dancer falling away from the others, like what was seen in the first movement. This was a poignant choreographic choice and helped to guide the audience through the varying songs in this piece. 


“I See You” was the final piece, choreographed by Fredrick Earl Mosley, and set to “Beat Box”. This piece is funky and acrobatic. It features the largest cast of the night, with over 20 dancers, several of which were guest dancers, dressed in suits and brightly colored ties. The dancers’ energy is exuberant, to match the music. One of the strongest moments was when the stage lights were turned off, and a dancer breaks it down, surrounded by grooving castmates holding flashlights. This moment felt personal, like I could be watching this performance on a street corner. This was likely my favorite piece of the night due to its energy and enthusiasm.


Overall, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative put on an excellent performance this semester, a fine demonstration of the talent and dedication of students on this campus. Congratulations to the dancers and the creative team, and I can’t wait to see what they bring us next semester!





Photo via Leigh Ann Etsy 

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