Friday, April 16, 2021

Buoyant seasonal program presents Indianapolis Ballet from 'Grace to Grandeur'

 Still a rarity among local patronage of the performing arts, a carefully planned avenue to "the new normal" is opening this weekend with the Toby at Newfields' presentation of the Indianapolis Ballet.

Scene from IB's 2018 "Raymonda."

Offering a radiant "Grace to Grandeur," the company reports that the permitted 30 percent in-person capacity is close to being reached in four performances at the theater today through Sunday. But access to the show virtually will be available through April 30. 

Attending Thursday evening's dress rehearsal, I was struck by the largely polished execution of the four-work program. The 90-minute show is designed with the characteristic flair artistic director Victoria Lyras brings to her company's productions. Costumes and lighting for each of the pieces (to recorded musical accompaniment) had a distinctiveness that suited the choreographic spectrum.

To end with a seasoned production of "Raymonda" (Act III) rooted the program in the company's past history (it was on the IB season three years ago).  The ballet, a product of late 19th-century St. Petersburg, represents the height of Russian romanticism with Glazunov's music and Petipa's choreography. After a story involving challenges to young love defeated by magical and realistic martial prowess, a wedding is elaborately celebrated under the aegis of the Hungarian king; in the third act, the narrative comes to rest on a blissful summit. Raymonda (Jessica Miller) and Jean de Brienne (Shea Johnson) make a dazzling bridal couple.

The costumes and the clever appropriation of folk dancing animated the first part of the celebration. From there, adept staging spotlighted ensemble and more individualized dancing, ending in a finale reprising the showcased segments. It amounted to a blended climax that realized the promised grandeur of the program's title. 

I saw the Sunday cast in Thursday's dress rehearsal, which opened the program with the company's highly accomplished partnership of Yoshiko Kamikusa  and Chris Lingner in a Balanchine ballet to music of the foundational Russian composer Glinka. "Valse-Fantaisie," with the duo supported by four female dancers, brought forward the expansive, space-defining wealth of arm movements typical of Balanchine. The performers displayed a balanced feeling for the top-to-toe integration in the Russian master's choreography — its breadth and depth even when the mood is ebullient.

"Diana and Actaeon" featured another excellent partnership  — Rowan Allegra and Lucas Labrador — in a strenuous pas-de-deux by Agrippina Vaganova based on the myth of the Roman goddess of the hunt and her overmatched mortal admirer. The solo variations were carried out with panache.

An irresistible new work, by founding company member Kristin Toner Young, rounds out the current production. The choreographer made good use of two movements from Rachmaninoff's Sonata for Cello and Piano. The recording used came across as excessively bass-heavy, but that imbalance turned out to suit the darker passions hinted at in "Scherzo Passionato." 

With somber costumes by Lyras, the work for three men and three women presented a fluid scenario of relationships sometimes cooperative and positive, sometimes flecked with missed opportunities and suggestions of conflict. The music's energy inspires a choreographic vision that reinforces Rachmaninoff music's tendency to check its vigorous assertions with nostalgia and regret.



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