Tag: ballet

Founded in 2007 by five professional ballet dancers enrolled at Columbia University, CBC (The Columbia Ballet Collaborative) is comprised of students from all of the University’s undergraduate colleges and affiliates.

On April 15th, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative held their Spring Performances celebrating the CBC’s 10th anniversary season.

A performance set in seven acts, the program showcased ballerinxs (ballerinas and danseurs) of every level, including several professional alumni of years passed. In a packed Miller Theatre, these students past and present brought to life the stunning choreography of seven different nationally-recognized choreographers, including George Balanchine, Caitlin Dieck Locke, Richard Isaac, Barry Kerollis, Emery LeCrone, Craig Salstein, and Claudia Schreier.

While choreographers have the responsibility to shape the movements of the dancers, ballerinxs invest their time, sweat, and emotion into making those pieces translate from the page to the stage.

In the first performance of the night “Five Songs for the Piano” (2010), five ballerinas combined classical movements with loose hair, gestural port de bras, and a constant opening and regression of limbs that mirrored their intense expressions as strands of hair swept back and forth with each motion, obscuring them from view. The piece was not the most technically demanding of the night, but the coordination and skill invested by the dancers, as well as the technical lighting that cast each effort into relief, did more than justice to LeCrone’s construction across five intensely expressive musical pieces.

Choreographer Emery LeCrone: “This piece is about exploring the deep root of our identity and trying to tap into that uniqueness on stage.”

"Five Songs for Piano" choreographed by Emery LeCrone; original score by Mendelssohn. Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Elizabeth Ratze, Sophia Salingaros, Sophia Loo and Allegra Herman.

“Five Songs for Piano” choreographed by Emery LeCrone; original score by Mendelssohn.
Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Elizabeth Ratze, Sophia Salingaros, Sophia Loo and Allegra Herman.

Altogether, “Five Songs for Piano” told a story of coming into one’s own identity, a moment of growth and personal exploration that could also be witnessed on the stage as the ballerinas each brought to life a song with the support of her sisters en attitude.

The second piece “Les Neuf Danseuses” featured a cast entirely composed of CBC Alumni. A beautiful demonstration of coordination– and an impressive set to manage on a small stage– lit up the Miller Theatre as the audience witnessed the CBC’s trademark choreographic meld of modern styles with classical techniques and control.

The key to the audience’s heart, however, came with the third act, when they were introduced to the show-stealing sophomore Nicholas Rio in Claudia Shreier’s choreographic masterpiece “Harmonic.” The ballerinas and the danseur moved through the choreography naturally, as though they were familiar enough with the piece to perform with their eyes closed. Their lifts were smooth and showed no strain, their facial expressions were matched perfectly to the mood of the music and choreography.

A short intermission was followed by several more moving pieces, including master choreographer Barry Kerollis’ “Diagnosis,” once more starring Nicholas Rio and introducing into the spotlight other stars of the night, including ballerina Clara Monk, whose control and flexibility left the audience breathless. The difficulty level of these pieces (including some stunning excerpts from George Balanchine’s masterpiece “Serenade” and the flowing interpretive work of Richard Isaac’s “Troublemaker”) was on par with that expected from a fully professional dance collaborative, and the emotion in their expressions was genuine, affecting the whole audience as they became more than observers in the dancers’ struggle– as can be previewed in the video sample of “Diagnosis” below (gracefully provided through Kerollis and the Columbia Ballet Collaborative):

The night closed with Craig Salstein’s “Blooming Bouquet,” a clever piece that imitates the playful interactions between practicing dancers with rapid sequences of grand jetés and contagious laughter as the delightful young ballerinxs chase each other across the floor, seemingly weightless.

"Blooming Bouquet" choreographed by Craig Salstein. Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Alex Susi and an unidentified ballerina at Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

“Blooming Bouquet” choreographed by Craig Salstein. Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Alex Susi and an unidentified ballerina at Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

Smiles remained, but tears bloomed as the dance came to an end and the audience regretfully bid goodbye to the show and the graduating seniors who performed one last time as active Columbia students. The audience could only hope that they would return as alumni for future CBC performances; this hope came through loudly in a cacophony of cheers and a raucous standing ovation that lingered in the air even after the ballerinxs exited.

Photo Courtesy of CUBE

Step into another world and dive into wonderland with Columbia University Ballet Ensemble (CUBE)!

In this stressful time of the year, CUBE delivered a much-needed, light-hearted rendition of Alice In Wonderland, brightening up finals season. On December 8th and 9th, ballet dancers in CUBE took on the enchanting characters we all love, and turned them into delightful dancers. The performance featured a beautiful, expressive Alice, danced by Kasey Broekema, wandering her way through Wonderland, meeting characters such as the time-absorbed white rabbit, danced by Kyryk Pavlovsky, the mysterious Caterpillar, danced by Sophia Salingaros, the playful Mad Hatter, danced by Trevor Menders, and of course the feisty and elegant Queen of Hearts, danced by Anna McEvoy-Melo. The dancers playing lead roles were evidently accomplished and skilled as they pirouetted on pointe or leaped across the stage in their challenging choreography. Their acting and expression through their bodies brought the characters to life as well.

CUBE is lauded for their ability to integrate all levels of dancers while creating a cohesive piece. Alice in Wonderland was the  perfect example of how to do just that. With beautiful choreography for each dancer, CUBE highlighted everyone in all their dances, from Flamingos to Flowers to Cards.

Opening night was full of excitement and energy. The expressiveness of the dancers particularly stood out as they told the story of Alice falling through the rabbit hole to trying to save the Knave from the wrath of the queen. I only wish there were a larger audience to cheer on their work. CUBE’s Alice in Wonderland was a laudable and charming performance that left me wanting to follow the Alice down the rabbit hole to wonderland.

Haley So is a first year in SEAS who wishes she could dance and be as fierce as the Queen of Hearts.

Spring has sprung, and with spring comes the Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s Spring Performances. Each of the six pieces added a certain je ne sais quoi that contributed to the show’s cohesiveness as a whole.

“Vanilla Extract” seemed to be comment on how society strives for perfection. The dance opened on a fairly dark stage, with the dancers walking in two circles as if they were the hands of a clock. Then, one by one, the dancers slowly broke off from the line and began to pantomime washing different parts of their bodies. The motifs of straights lines and circles echoed throughout the piece, both in the the dancers’ limbs and movements. The music was static-y and lacked a solid beat, but fit the piece perfectly.

“Ellington Episodes” followed more of a storyline. The music was different  instrumentals of the Duke Ellington’s  works. The first song served to introduce the dancers: three ladies in sparkly, 1920s style dresses, and two guys in suspenders and button downs. In the second song, the boys overtly admire the girls’ beauty and try to catch their attention. At the end, one of the guys ran offstage with two of the girls, leaving the remaining couple for a pas de deux. The duo was slow and sweet, with a soft, slow tune to go along with it. The last piece was an upbeat, thigh slapping, hand clapping celebration, and seemed to showcase more 1920s era pieces. Overall, the each episode showed off the female dancers’ superior pointe technique and male dancers’ strength and stamina.

The next piece, “Nobody Will Miss Us,” was a stark contrast to the previous one, and a personal favorite. This dance also seemed to have episodes within it, but they were less clearly defined. The dance started with a darkened stage and dancers who covered their eyes with their hands. Each dancer wore a light purple dress with a darker purple shift underneath, and they frequently used their dresses as props during the dance. The somber mood of the dance evoked thoughts of a dark harvest dance or an initiation of some sort. The dancers’ movements and the dark stage made them appear positively ghostly.

“Valse Fantasie” was a bright Balanchine piece with lots of jumping and spinning. The dancers’ arm movements were flowy and light, and their long white tutus added to the piece’s breezy vibe.

“Solidarity” was a minimalist piece that featured live piano music. The dancers wore nude colored leotards or shorts. This piece also had a weightlessness to it, but it was more reserved than the previous dance. “Solidarity” featured three solos, two duets, and one trio. Near the end of the dance, the pairings bled into each other and became less distinct. The music was haunting and yearning, and the dance contained much dragging and many complex lifts.

“Before and After” was an upbeat piece that featured many sharp angles and lots of turns. Curiously, though the dancers were en pointe and pointed there feet as required, they flexed their feet often as well. This piece was a bright end to a diverse and captivating show.

 

The Columbia Ballet Collaborative offers the kind of performing art you didn’t know you needed in your life. Also called the Ivy Ballet Exchange, the program strives to promote collaboration amongst schools like Columbia, Yale, Harvard in all forms of dance. This year, the Lion was invited to the 2016 Ivy Ballet Exchange. After a day of classes and workshops, all fifty dancers showcased their talents to the audience.

The first group to dance was PUB, Princeton University’s Ballet Company. They performed a piece entitled “Instinct” choreographed by Paige Shaw. The piece was technically sound and was performed en pointe. The music was composed of soft, breathy moans that slowly became discordant.

The next piece was performed by the Harvard Ballet Company, or HBC. The choreography, created by Sophie Carroll, was an excerpt from the longer piece based on The Giver by Lois Lowry. “Rosemary’s Release” was set to Claire de Lune, which was chosen “to explore the melancholy undertones of the song.” The piece involved only five dancers. All of their movements were slow and deliberate, giving their dancing a heavy, deliberate nature.

The following dance, “Ripples”, was a direct contrast. Marisa Remez, who choreographed the piece, said she wanted to celebrate the joy of dancing since this was her last year dancing with PUB. It was a bright, joyous dance filled with bright smiles and elaborate footwork set to a dubstep-y tune that occasionally sounded like soda cans being opened.

Connor Yokus’s piece “Whitey Tighty” was another dance about dancing, but it had a more serious angle. He said he his piece was “a reflection on [his] thoughts about ballet and his complex relationship with it.” It certainly turned many assumptions about ballet on their heads. The piece began with two men partnering in a duet with a corps of women behind them. The music constantly switched between a melodic, classical sounding piece and a more chaotic instrumental with a bassier beat. Later on, there was partnering between two women in an echo of the piece’s start. Still later, there was the more traditional partnering of a man and a woman, but the woman supported the man instead of the other way around. I enjoyed the twisting of my expectations.

The next piece was called “Spindle of Gestures,” choreographed by Norbert de la Cruz III.  This was the only piece where the dancers had distinctive costumes: ombre shirts that turned from white to black along with black leggings. The dancers’ movements were quick but deliberate, and they all seemed to move as parts of one body. In stark contrast, the music was slow and melodic.

“The Shape of the Voice” by Morgan Mcewen featured sharp, angular movements. The music contained vocalized moans and grunts similar to “Instinct.” The choreographer used many 90* angles that were unfamiliar to see in a piece that was mostly ballet. The dancers made it work, however.

Julia Janson of PUB choreographed a piece (“The Construct”) that was more classical ballet-y, except that it was filled with many tumbles, falls, and turns. All of those movements were executed as smoothly as any other movement.

The performance may not have had flashy costumes or a spotlit stage, but it didn’t need it. The dancers had superb technique and all worked well together. The Columbia Ballet Exchange truly fostered a dynamic and collaborative environment that was enjoyable for both viewer and participant. Keep an eye out for their upcoming performance in April!

Prior to curtain at any ballet, one braces oneself for two realities: the sheer physical artistry about to grace the stage, coupled with distinct waves of equally potent pride and insecurity of witnessing the art our peers and friends create with their bodies. Both infused the audience at Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s opening night on Friday, an eclectic yet harmonious show that bridged genre and form.

Bach’s tinkling a minor counterpoint ushered in the first number, prolific choreographer Avi Scher’s “In Her Skin.” The dance juxtaposed highly classical, almost rigid footwork against what can only be described as quirk: a little wiggle from Katya Vasilaky here, a fluid body roll from Brittney Feit there. A peculiar air of anachronism hung in the air; the piece’s experimentation with variations on classical arabesque and jeté with a backdrop of quintessential Bach suspended time, as all dynamic art does. “Imparted Audacity,” choreographer Donna Salgado’s fusion of runway with classical ballet, followed, with dancers clad in Beyoncé-esque monochrome, paired with pulsating bursts of energy that mirrored the music. The dance featured Connor Yockus, CC ‘18, himself the choreographer of a post-intermission number, “Whitey Tighty.”

Shoshana Rosenfield, CBC’s graduating senior this semester, and James Shee, her partner and previous dancer at the National Ballet of Canada, shattered the stage with sheer finesse and technique in Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, specially commissioned for the New York City Ballet, for which Rosenfield danced for several years. Described by the Ballet as an “eight-minute display of ballet bravura and technique,” the number had the audience clinging to the edges of its seat and what remained of its self-esteem; Rosenfield’s grand jetés were equal parts controlledly masterful yet fluidly graceful, matched only by Shee’s hush-inducing fouttés. Applause rang loud and often, the duo’s symbiosis and prodigious technique was as stunning as it was effortless.

The second half of the show blurred form and time: Robert LaFosse’s traditionally-choreographed “La Valse de L’Armour,” iridescently costumed by Ballet Academy East, preceded Connor Yockus’ student-choreographed, boundary-breaking foray into a dance genre consistently “plagued by sexism, heteronormativity, and racial divides.” Dark, brooding, and provocative, Yockus’ number blended gender binaries, sexuality, and racial norms as erratic, goosebump-raising beats suffused each dancer’s movement. In calculated yet spontaneous rolls, whether through the air or across the floor, or with almost spastic arabesques filling the stage, “Whitey Tighty” challenged the notions of classical ballet

CBC’s opening night closed with a hypnotic “The Shape of Voice,” choreographed by Morgan McEwen to an eight-voice partita, a haunting play on the polyphonic Bach that opened the show. Disorienting in its discordance, the piece nevertheless closed the program epitomizing the consistent creativity and artistry that preceded it; McEwen tailored lithe limbs and traditionally tame pirouettes to the rhythmic, animalistic moans and raspy breaths enveloping the entire hall. If there was any doubt left in the audience’s mind of ballet’s power to adapt and continuously stun even as it draws on art deeply rooted in tradition, Friday night’s conglomeration of past, present, and future surely dispelled it. Cheers to CBC for this weekend’s performances and for all its genre-bending, impossibly graceful ones to come.