City Ballet's recent Spring Performance, May 6-9 at
the Lyric Theatre, was an expressive, technically accomplished performance,
where the artists demonstrated versatility and onstage generosity.
The artistic staff of the ballet chose choreography of striking variety,
visual musicality and a vigorous measure of humor.
The most triumphant work opened the concert. "Lambarena,"
choreographed by Val Caniparoli, successfully combined movement of
African dance forms with ballet. Caniparoli, with sensitivity and
texture, had the dancers gyrating, shaking, twirling, leaping and
falling to music that reflected the dual disciplines of the choreography:
Bach and traditional African music.
Teel in Link performed in May 2004. (photograph
by Ken Coit)
At the hands of less accomplished dancers, this work could have
faltered. Uniting such disparate aesthetics could spell disaster,
but the skilled performers and the well-crafted choreography
made it work.
Caniparoli created two sets of dancers, a sextetthree
men, three women and a seven-member ensemble. On the surface,
the sextet appeared to dance leading roles with the seven dancers
supporting them. But Caniparoli composed the dance giving equality
to the groups while maintaining a division, a dual arrangement
that reflected the hybrid nature of the work.
Logan Pachciarz, Francis Veyette and Christopher Barksdale comprised
the male component of the three main couples. They appeared
shirtless after the first section of the dance, displaying chiseled
physiques and accenting the ethnic undulations of the choreography.
Gorgeously echoing the texture of the choreography, the upstage
cyclorama shifted color and illumination slowly and subtly throughout
the dance, evoking images of twilight, noon, dawn and nighttime,
as if the dance traveled through the hours of the day.
Kimberly Cowen and Paris Wilcox danced the pas de deux "Lento
a Tempo E Appassionato" by Vincente Nebrada, a pleasing
duet. Pianist William Marsden provided the only live accompaniment
of the concert, playing as Cowen and Wilcox danced. The dancers
executed the sensuous and sculptural movement smoothly except
for an occasional, forgivable fumble. The piece was divided
into three sections and the lights faded completely after the
first two. The connections between the slices of choreography
would have connected more seamlessly had the dancers remained
In 2001, choreographer Alan Hineline set an original work on
the Kansas City Ballet, "Link." With this, like all
the concert's works, the dancers delivered well; but Hineline
created a dance that exists somewhere between a satire and a
traditional ballet, and it fails to achieve either. Costume
Designer Sebastian St. John, however, created remarkably humorous
attire for the dancers. A classical tutu extends away from a
ballerina's form and often makes an embarrassing "panty"
shot whenever a female dancer faces away from the audience.
St. John accented this common ballet convention and created
red tutus that point away from the dancer at an almost right
angle, the dancers' pelvic regions adorned with bright red bicycle
shorts, a hilarious sight gag.
Hineline's composition, though, doesn't maintain enough of the
satirical element to clearly manifest a humorous dance. He interrupts
the occasional laugh (the appearance of the costumes, the male
dancers running into a slide between the women's legs) with
lengthy executions of balletic movement, unoriginal, traditional
Hype for the concert surrounded the work of contemporary dance
celebrity Twyla Tharp whose Nine Sinatra Songs served
as the show's finale. True to the title, Tharp's piece makes
visual nine songs sung by Frank Sinatra. A large, mirrored ball
rotates throughout the piece, scattering beams of light across
the dancers and audience. Fourteen dancers in evening attire
dance to the songs. Images of ballroom dancing, disconnection,
deliberate awkwardness and passion swirled about the stage.
Particularly humorous were Aisling Hill-Connor and Josh Christopher
dancing to "One More For My Baby (and One More For the
Road)." Christopher's tuxedo necktie dangled undone from
his collar, and the two failed to connect because of apparent
intoxication. Holly Zimmerman and Matthew Powell endearingly
executed a clumsy cha-cha to the lovesick music of "Somethin'
Stupid." Chelsea Teel and Logan Pachciarz to "Forget
Domani" and Kimberly Cowen and Francis Veyette to "That's
Life" provided contrast to the more slapstick couples and
danced with elegance and passion.
Tharp's choreography includes enormous variety. We watched the
dancers begin to explore one idea, and then they abruptly changed
drastically. Many find this aspect of Tharp's work delightful
and alive. On the other hand, she failed to complete any of
her ideas without shifting creative gears too soon, a choreographic
attention deficit disorder.
Ballroom dance movement was briefly touched on, rather than
deepened into. When more than one couple danced onstage, each
executed such disparate movement that the eye suffered from
over stimulus. Tharp designed her movement to be danced with
nonchalance, cool, reserve and a laid-back attitude, reflecting
the very perspective with which she composed. What she lacked
in substance and depth, she made up with multiplicity and jarring
All the dances in the concert were long. Perhaps length of work
represents choreographic success, but a pattern of drawn-out
dances, each in several sections, gets tiresome. A shorter interlude
or vignette would have cleaned the audience's visual palette.
Perhaps someday we can witness from the ballet a full-length
concert of more concise compositions, a refreshing notion.
The company's dancers performed with classy versatility, impeccable
technique (that keeps improving), and thorough preparation.
Of all the accomplishments of the concert, the dancers' talent
Spring Performance was the ballet's final offering of the
2003-2004 season. The Kansas City Ballet's next performance
will be Ballet in the Park that will take place at several
different parks in the metropolitan area on Labor Day Weekend.
Call 816-931-2232 X375 or visit www.kcballet.org
for more information.
David Ollington can be contacted at Ollington@aol.com.