Photo by Victoria Robson
As Columbia Ballet Collaborative’s performers extended their bodies in beautiful shapes at their 2016 Fall Performances, it’s easy to see the elegance, strength, and fluidity ballet dancers are known for. While students of Columbia University and Barnard College comprise CBC, they proved that dedicating themselves to academia does not make them any less dancers. They commanded the stage at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center on November 18th and 19th with an air of professionalism. Yet they kept a youthful, fresh take on ballet, melding the traditional to modern with impeccable technique and a focus on the articulations in the music to produce more profound pieces. Their fall performances offered six pieces filled edgy and creative choreography.
The opening piece, “Symphony in G,” choreographed by Amy Hall Garner, showcased the lines of the dancers. Dressed in simple black and pancaked skin colored pointe shoes, the dancers played off the the trills and fermatas of Mozart’s music with quick footwork and moments of soaring through the air. Solos and pas de deuxs were precise and outlined each dancer. With Garner’s close attention to the nuances in the music, the piece was as if the music came to life, that the music was made for the dancers. This high energy choreography not only set the scene with beautiful technique, but also the avant garde direction for the rest of the show.
Add a little heavy metal and pure expression of the music and you’ll get “A Single Marble Block,” a fierce student-choreographed piece by Sadi Mosko CC’17 featuring movement in the dancers as well as across the stage. It began with the howling wind paired with shaking motions and isolations from the dancers. She played with the sound and bass of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” as well as light to create an intricate and eccentric piece. Between bursts of light, the dancers reacted to each other as they traveled from corner to corner as a unit, or perhaps as a ‘single block,’ breaking apart at times, offering deep contrast to the unity.
“No Mud No Lotus,” choreographed by Ursula Verduzco, was truly a stunning piece with a beautiful message. It began with a downpour of rain and crashing thunder where in the spotlight, individuals danced against the rain. The sense of conflict depicted from the expressive dancers and the sultry music and thunder fell away as the piece went on. It transitioned into a light and harmonious dance where the performers bourreed and pirouetted with the smooth picks of the guitar that mimicked the sound of rain. Their colorful costumes brought a swirl of hues in the enlivened dance. The piece ended in the same thunderstorm at the beginning, but with the dancer loving the rain this time. A little shift in perspective -no mud no lotus- is sometimes all you need.
Contrasting with the fluidity of the previous piece, Andrew Harper pushed the boundaries in his piece, “Lost in Space.” It was innovative and fun to say the least. Each dancer, dressed in everyday clothes, seemed to resemble us in life. Dancers were plugged into earphones where sometimes their music synced up and other times the individual voices sang out slightly different from the rest. The dancing was more freeform and expressive in individuality. The music, “American Pie,” and moments of individual expression alludes to the uniqueness of members in a community. They follow their own beat. But, there are also moments where the voices come together to create a powerful unity between the dancers.
“Moonlight & Sonatas,” choreographed by Kevin Jenkins, featured two pairs in an elegant derivation of classical ballet. The dancers built contrast between sharpness during quick movements with smooth slows. With their impeccable technique and partnering, the dancers created an illusion of slipping out of control, only to join into flowing, free releases of tension. They created beautiful imagery and gave attention to even the slightest hand flicks, letting the movement reverberate through the body. In the intimate theater, the audience could hear the breaths of the dancers, confirming the difficulty that they make look easy.
The last piece ended the show with a display of intricate footwork and showed just how incredible the dancers in CBC are. “Us,” choreographed by Miro Magloire, took three of Bach’s preludes and fugues and showcased something different with each: gracefulness and repetition, unity and technique, and quick mirrorings with crisscrossing and weaving movements. They played on shapes, repetition, and footwork, creating a dynamic piece. It’s difficulty was evident yet the dancers were pleasant and never fatigued, always expressing themselvesto the fullest. It perfectly closed the show by leaving the audience wowed.
CBC’s fall performances were refreshing and impressive. Ballet dancers are incredible, and dancers in the Columbia Ballet Collaborative are no exception, as they showcased a new take on the traditional ballet in their stunning fall performances. Take innovative choreographers and strong, graceful dancers, and you’ll create beautiful art.
Haley So is a freshman in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Although a lover of science and math, she can’t live without a little art, ballet, or music.