AN IMPRESSIVE CLUTCH Jennifer Ricci and Davide Vittorino.
During his decade-long tenure at Festival Ballet Providence, artistic director Mihailo "Misha" Djuric has not only created a polished ensemble of dancers but fostered an impressive clutch of choreographers. Of the eight pieces in the current Up CLOSE on HOPE series (continuing through March 22), only one is from a classical source: Marius Petipa's pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty (1890). On the other hand, three of the remaining contemporary pieces (six of which were created in the past six years) do use the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Boston-based Gianni DiMarco's Con/Fused (2009) is astounding. From the opening sequence in which Alexander Akulov walks toward the audience flapping his wing-like arms while Erica Chipp and Leticia Guerrero alternately peak under them to the closing image of Akulov's waifish self on the ground, legs flailing gently, with the two women standing over him, this piece is unforgettable. Torn between two relationships (or ideas), Akulov has short interludes with each of the two women, at one point moving his eyes along Chipp's body from toe to top, as he slowly stands. Later, Guerrero throws her whole body sideways between Chipp and Akulov; Chipp then bourrées next to the two of them, her vibrato toes making their whole bodies shake apart. The title might indicate the sometimes fused, sometimes contrary interactions we all have, sometimes with the same person.
Another 2009 premiere, Viktor Plotnikov's Atom, is set to the music of minimalist composer John Adams. Plotnikov says he was inspired by the sounds of the music to envision the inner workings of an atom and its nucleus for his four dancers. As with most Plotnikov pieces, timing is everything, never more so when each dancer must move among the others, as hyper-energetic electrons, protons, and neutrons, in ever more complicated rotations, with much agitated jumping, circling of arms and wrists, and an eventual explosion. A clever and canny piece indeed.
So, too, is Mark Harootian's Partitas Connected (also 2009). Set to a portion of Bach's Partitas, a six-part suite, this dance begins with four female dancers, their hands linked, their steps en pointe matched to each quick beat of the music. When not intertwined as a foursome, two pairs still hold tight, mirroring poses and executing symmetrical phrases. They eventually also pair up with two male dancers, in shifting twos and threes, the quick-time movement of their feet and the wave-like undulations of their arms fitting snugly to Bach's music.
Choreographer Yves de Bouteiller, who created Romeo & Juliet for Festival in 2005, presents Starry Night (1999), a pas de deux every bit as bittersweet as anything the star-crossed lovers danced. It's a tight duet, in which Heather O'Halloran and Ilya Burov are clasped and curled against each other, almost never stepping apart. Full of embraces and caresses, the work ends with a memorably tender pose: just heads leaning on each other's shoulders.
The second half features a stunning solo, Over Again (2008), created by Boston Ballet's Boyko Dossev, performed alternately by Leticia Guerrero and Davide Vittorino. The piece opens with a headstand and continues with writhing, slithering, and splayed limbs on the floor. It evolves as the harsh drama of a prisoner being beaten, prodded, gagged, and choked — a gripping use of acrobatic dance to remind us of the horrors of torture.
In stark contrast, this piece is preceded by the romantic duet from The Sleeping Beauty, executed with panache by Lauren Kennedy and Alexander Akulov, and is followed by two light-hearted pieces: Djuric's Playing by Ear (2006) and Colleen Cavanaugh's 321 Ligeti (2007). Djruic's, also set to Bach, features Jennifer Ricci and Mindaugas Bauzys, with Ricci as a stringed instrument being played by Bauzys. It's clever and fun.
Cavanaugh's is set to the crisp, playful music of György Ligeti, with six dancers partnering in twos and threes. The dance phrases are often performed in canon, with each dancer picking up the combination of steps in turn. The jumps, twirls, and even lifts are impressively fast, in keeping with Ligeti's tempo, and the mood is upbeat and cheerful.
Once again Up CLOSE on HOPE brings short and stunning dances to audiences who are, indeed, up close Up CLOSE on HOPE | Mar 14 + Mar 21 7:30 pm + Mar 15 + 22 6 pm | FBP Black Box Theatre, 825 Hope St, Providence | $50 | 401.353.1129 | festivalballet.com