Thursday night marked Columbia Repertory Ballet’s (CRB’s) return to the studio!  CRB filmed its fall 2021 performance in the Barnard College dance studios with an entirely masked cast.

On Thursday night, ticket holders were first directed to a zoom welcome from Co-Directors Maki Ishibashi and Maria Sol Blankemeyer, and then to the performance streamed via YouTube.  CRB specializes in established works of classical and contemporary ballet.  This fall’s repertoire was no different — the inclusion of both classical and neoclassical works made for a truly enthralling assortment of choreography.

The evening began with a rendition of Spirited Syncopations, choreographed by Durante Verzola.  James Chapman kicked off the performance, leaping onto stage with jovial vivacity.  The entire piece took on a fairly buoyant tone, with the exception of James Chapman and Mariah Hesser’s duet Forgotten Dreams; this segment provided a moving contrast to the more upbeat quality of the rest of the piece.  

Next up was excerpts from Don Quixote, a well known classical ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa.  It was enchantingly sassy, captivating its audience with sharp movements and a fast pace.  For me, the final segment, Grand Pas de Deux featuring Francesca Siudela and Sean Keating, was the highlight of the evening.  In a particularly memorable moment, Siudela was hoisted onto one of Keating’s legs, her torso floating a couple of feet above the floor while her legs extended upwards into midair.  Both Siudela and Keating then outstretched their arms, seemingly liberating themselves from the confines of gravity.  

Directly following was Cerulean Contemplation choreographed by Therese Gahl.  This piece was characterized by the harmony between its subjects  — the shifts from synchronized movements to diverging movements felt very fluid, and each action complemented the others in such a wonderfully cohesive manner.  It was also saturated with a sort of emotive poignancy not present in the preceding performances.  

The penultimate performance was excerpts from Birthday Variations, a more contemporary piece of ballet, choreographed by Gerald Arpino.  For me, excerpts from Birthday Variations created a sprightly, fairy-like atmosphere.  It featured five women dressed in elegantly fluffy, pastel-colored dresses, along with one man.  Each woman performed a solo, and, towards the middle of the piece, one woman shared an exceptionally intimate duet with the man. 

The final performance of the night, Splinter (choreographed by Claudia Schreier) provided a satisfying contrast to excerpts from Birthday Variations.  Unlike excerpts from Birthday Variations, Splinter felt quite fierce — the music created a sense of intensity, and each dancer dressed in a black leotard complete with randomly placed lines of blue.  I particularly enjoyed a segment in which five of the six dancers remained anchored to the floor while one twirled away, seemingly “splintering” off from the group.  

Overall, I was thoroughly dazzled by Columbia Repertory Ballet’s fall 2021 performance.  I am not a dancer, but the expressive nature of each piece was enough to keep me engrossed throughout.  I am sure CRB’s future performances will do the same, and look forward to watching.  

ballet shoes via flickr