Last evening’s program included the premiere of Melissa Barak’s A Simple Symphony. It was preceded by Jorma Elo’s Slice to Sharp (same Elo soup, different bowl) and Peter Martin’s Halleluja Junction (halleluja, it’s finally over). She shamed both of them. Not a masterpiece by any means, but Simple Symphony offered some structure related to ballet, musicality related to ballet, and within the third section adagio it offered some invention related to ballet as well. In short, Barak understands that ballet choreography is an art born from years of practicing craft and discipline as opposed to impulsive creative vomiting (S-t-S) or pandering to the past (HJ). That is not to say that parts of the construction were not formulaic Balanchine. They were, but they were not, as Halleluja Junkshun was, a collection of worn out cliches and pandering poo.
The ladies’ costumes (short romantic length tulle in pink and lavendar), though pretty, were not a good design choice for the choreography which probably would have benefited from something more contemporary. That said, it appeared to Haglund that Barak may have designed all of her costumes around the lovingly crafted adagio mentioned above. If so, he understands completely and agrees that they were good for the adagio.
If Melissa Barak is a romantic and wants to create choreography in or near that style, Haglund will stick by her side as she hones her craft, because Barak unlike so many others choreographing today, understands that making dances requires skill that requires practice that requires discipline that requires craft. She probably reads Frost, not Ferlinghetti.
A few nice words:
Robert Fairchild was a joy to watch in Slice to Sharp. Judging from the faces of the ballerinas as he encountered them on stage, Fairchild is fast becoming one of the more trustworthy and generous partners in the company and a positive influence on those with whom he dances. As a soloist, he is dancing at a high principal level with killer-pirouettes and exploding elevation. Haglund now searches the casting for his name when choosing performances.
Mercurial Maneuvers closed the program with an exceptional performance by Abi Stafford. There is a softness and roundness to her dancing that is a welcome relief from the harsh linear quality delivered by the majority of the company’s dancers. Her arabesque shape has a curve. Her port de bras has a curve. And she always seems to have been swept away by the music. Very, very lovely to watch last night.
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