Tag: dance

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.

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.