On Sunday, we went to see the matinée of Ballet Across America III at the Kennedy Center. This is something they’ve been doing for, well, three years – hence the III in the name. They bring in a bunch of ballet companies and they do an evening of short programs. There are 9 companies represented and three different programs each with three of the companies. The day we went, we got to see North Carolina Dance Theater, Ballet Austin, and the Dance Theater of Harlem. This was the program we wanted to see, so we were happy. In short, it was a delightful night of ballet of all kinds. That is one of the things we like best about this kind of thing – we get to see the styles of different companies; how they dance, what kinds of dancers they like, what kind of choreography they do. It’s really interesting.
The N.C. Dance Theater did Rhapsodic Dances with music by Rachmaninoff. There were 5 couples in different colors. The dancing fit the music beautifully with the combinations of dancers changing as the different parts of the music changed. At one point, one of the ballerinas, slipped of her tutu and used it almost as a fan in a fan dance. I liked this one and it was a nice opener, but found that it occasionally got a little pat. Beth liked it more than I did, but I liked it and the music was lovely with an excellent piano (Arkadiy Figlin).
The next was Ballet Austin doing a piece called Hush (not based on the episode of Buffy, however). This used Phillip Glass music. I was a little worried about what this would be like since I’m not crazy about Glass’ music but this was a much more conventional piece, almost romantic, I thought. The dancing was very romantic as well, flowing and graceful with some of the dancers showing an amazing amount of flexibility. I liked this quite a lot, more than Beth (but I’m a romantic when it comes to ballet). Again, the orchestra did a wonderful job with another fantastic piano soloist (Lisa Emenheiser).
The last piece was Dance Theater of Harlem. They did Return choreographed by Robert Garland. This used prerecorded music, however, since that music was Aretha Franklin and James Brown, I had no complaint at all. The songs were “Mother Popcorn,” “Baby, Baby, Baby,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “Call Me” and “Super Bad.” This was a real crowd pleaser, a combination of pure ballet with pure funk. Beautifully lyrical when needed with hip shaking street moves added in. An openly sexy ballet. Their story is also interesting since, they had closed for 9 years due to debt and bankruptcy and have just recently restarted with a new set of young dancers. If the reaction of the crowd is any indication, they will do well.
Last night (Thursday) we went back to the KenCen to see “Anything Goes”. This is the touring company of the revival that won a Tony last year. It was delightful. To begin with the music and songs are by Cole Porter so that’s a big win right there. The choreography was wonderful with romantic dancing as well as big production numbers and big tap numbers. Just what you would want from a musical from the thirties (originally). The plot is a frothy silly conglomeration of gangsters, heiresses, lounge singers, and more , all on board an ocean liner going from NYC to England. The lead is Rachel York who gives you what a real Broadway musical star ought to. She really can sing the Cole Porter songs like they should be sung, from the smokiness of “I Get a Kick Out of You” to the rousing title song (with tap dancers on three levels). Her duet of “Friendship” with Fred Applegate was really funny and it was great to watch two professionals working together and having fun. And she can dance up a storm, too. This show has showstoppers aplenty and more classic standards than almost any show I’ve seen.
I know it seems that all we do is go to the theater but thats because this year we had subscriptions to both the Kennedy Center Ballet season (which we have had for years) and the regular theater season (because there were a number of shows we wanted to see), so there are times when we have something every week (or more).
Next week, I’ll probably write about what I’ve was watching on TV or reading or both.