Bwog’s Saturday Daily Editor, Lauren Kahme, shares a play-by-play of one of Columbia’s most talented and recently formed dance groups.
Last night marked the Columbia Repertory Ballet’s (CRB’s) first autumnal performance at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center. CRB does not choreograph original pieces; they perform already created works, enabling the student dancers to model their performances after productions they grew up studying and admiring. The repertoire did a lovely job of integrating classical pieces with contemporary ones, catering to the different preferences of the audience.
The evening began with excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, with choreography by Marius Petipa, a notorious figure in the late 19th-century classical ballet community. The four pieces performed from Sleeping Beauty were accompanied by fluttery, light, and fast-paced music, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The dancers’ airy, beautiful steps paired perfectly with the flute and triangle sounds. These pieces exemplified the classic canonical ballet style.
Promptly following was “Light in the Mist,” choreographed by Kevin Jenkins, with music composed by Javier Navarrete. This more contemporary piece featured four dancers who engaged in connective choreography: there was intentional physical contact amongst the dancers throughout the piece. Navarrete’s composition felt grander, more serious, and more somber, differing from the excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, which had a consistent feeling of gaiety and playfulness.
I spoke to two of the four dancers from “Light in the Mist,” and they each had kind words to say about CRB. Teresa Brown (CC ’21) hasn’t danced in a few years and attributes her dance activity now to the Columbia Repertory Ballet. She said that “CRB has allowed [her] to revive an old passion.” In regards to the implementation of such contrasting styles of ballet throughout the show, Tian Griffin (BC ’21) said that “it’s a good challenge that makes us grow as dancers.”
The next piece jarringly contrasted with the first two. “Farewell, My Lovely” opens with a single spotlight on two figures, while the rest of the stage is enveloped in darkness. With choreography by Kevin Jenkins and music composed by Rebecca Harold, this piece is intensely melancholic and deeply emotional. The two dancers, Christine Blackshaw (SEAS ’21) and Roger Creel (GSAS ’23), engage in a kind of dependent choreography where she relies heavily on him physically. This helps translate the plot to the audience: the man longs to support the woman, and his love for her is obvious. He yearns for her to gain her own stability, but by the end of the piece, she becomes feebly limp and dies.
The last piece of the first act, excerpts from Scarlet Sonata with choreography by Mary Barton and music by Joachim Raff, features a contemporary style with intricate and subtle choreography. The piece is silent at first, only joined by music after about thirty seconds. The simplistic, flowing costumes align with the contemporary theme of the whole piece.
After a 15 minute intermission, the company proceeded with the concept of blending traditional, classical pieces with contemporary, modern pieces with excerpts from Birthday Variations, “Aberrance,” and “Falls Like Rain.” Each piece outdid the next in terms of shocking, captivating, and impressing the audience. The dancers all filled such dynamic roles, showcasing their range of capabilities–acting in several different characters while shifting between various styles of ballet.
Finally, the company performed excerpts from the quintessential ballet, The Nutcracker. The pair of excerpts, “Spanish” and “Grand Pas De Deux” ended the show with a lively, dynamic, and classic piece. The dancers gave the audience an array of complicated and challenging lifts, and delicate and graceful leaps, demonstrating a thoroughly entertaining range of skills.
Overall, the CRB did not disappoint in this fall repertoire of beautiful pieces. We look forward to seeing all that the company has in store going forward!
Photography via Sequoia Harris and the Gerald Arpino Foundation