Sunday, March 12, 2000

Ballet celebrates women brilliantly

Enquirer contributor

        It was ladies night at the ballet Friday. Of the four works performed by Cincinnati Ballet, three were choreographed by women. The fourth, a Balanchine pas de deux, featured Jessica Mylene in a farewell performance.

        It was encouraging to see half the house of 1,600 in suits and ties for a dance event entitled Celebrating Women. In variety, vitality and great music, everyone got their money's worth.

        The best buy was Lila York's “Rapture” to Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concertos No. 3 and 5. A former Paul Taylor dancer, she knows how to move dancers around. The company came alive in this fully developed piece that eats up space with sweeping moves that slice the air.

        When two close dancing friends died, Ms. York made this work and dedicated it to them. It's about heaven, and mostly she puts her friends in a vibrant and enticing place. A middle section is melancholy but not maudlin as the dancers journey, one supposes, from life into the next realm.

        The piece was pushed relentlessly along by brilliant sounds coming from the ballet's orchestra led by Carmon DeLeone. Stirring piano accompaniment was that of Michael Chertok.

        Music throughout was lofty — from violin soloists Kiki Bussell, Kris Frankenfeld and Jacquie Fennell for Victoria Morgan's “No Oblivion” to Joan Tower's modern score for “Stepping Stones”.

        “No Oblivion,” set to a Vivaldi concerto, is a slight work. With the words of Greek poetess Sappho scrolling overhead, dancers pranced and played with the hint of ancient Greece in their moves and tunics. Although men were present, they served a secondary role. The piece didn't seem complete when the curtain closed. The highlight was the presence of the lyrical Anna Reznik.

        There were moments in Kathryn Posin's “Stepping Stones” that were stunning. She painted kaleidoscopic pictures with dancers spread out on six platforms of varying heights, their legs and bodies extending and twisting. Leah Elzner and Rene Micheo danced a sensuous pas de deux as they climbed the platforms together, in a succinct and complete metaphor for real love. But the company was a few days shy of mastering the precise movements. Some of Ms. Posin's choreography seemed arbitrary and disjointed, as though it had been plucked from the air.

        In making a grand exit from dancing, do it when you're at the top of your game. That's what soloist Jessica Mylene decided to do. A mere 31, she's still years away from critics writing about her waning talents, but she's decided to retire anyway, choosing Balanchine's “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” as her farewell. With Rene Micheo partnering her, she couldn't have made a better choice. She and Mr. Micheo made this bravura piece look almost too easy. Fast turns and lilting jumps were there, but it was her joy in the moment that will linger.


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