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Highs, Lows Mark ‘Wings’ Ballet

HBC combines classic and contemporary in their spring performance

Harvard Ballet Company (HBC) organized its spring show, performed on April 25 and 26, around its eponymous title: the second half is truly “From the Wings” of the first. The former provided excerpts from “Swan Lake,” while the latter featured classically inspired movement reinterpreted in 10 contemporary pieces. As disparate in style as these two halves were, so too was the quality of execution. Directed by Jennifer S. Love ’09 and Valentine N. Quadrat ’09, and produced by Jordan E. Roberts ’09, “From the Wings” provided an evening of highs and lows.

HBC took a risk choosing excerpts from “Swan Lake.” The choreography is technically challenging and requires utmost precision in its execution. The risk mostly paid off.

“Act I Pas de Trois,” performed by James C. Fuller ’10, Sarah C. Kenney ’08, and Claudia F. Schreier ’08, was commendable. As a trio, they danced beautifully, maintaining impressive unison during the most challenging portions, but they shone the most individually during the solo series. Schreier was charming and graceful, carefully counterbalancing the strength of her feet with softness in her arms. Besides a few missteps, Kenney too proved herself with her strong solo. Most impressive was Fuller with his soaring leaps and effortlessly executed turn sequence.

The other group performances, however, did not measure up to the high standards set by the pas de trois. Jennifer S. Love ’09 gave a truly insipid performance of the “Russian Variation,” lacking flair and rhythm on the stage. “Neopolitan Dance” and “Swan Pas de Trois” were both charming but often sloppy and uneven.

“Dance of the Four Cygnettes” was particularly disappointing. Though one of the most difficult pieces in the “Swan Lake,” the four dancers began strongly.

With interlaced arms, they performed the same quick footwork beautifully. Soon, however, they fell out of line, lacking the critical unison that makes “Four Cygnettes” so impressive and challenging.

But the “White Swan” and “Black Swan” solos more than compensated for the missteps of “Four Cygnettes.” Coral R. Martin ’10 gave a beautiful performance as the white swan. Though her grande jetés were not perfectly extended, her altitude positions—the emblematic silhouette of the swan in ballet—were exquisite. Amanda C. Lynch ’10, the black swan, danced almost flawlessly. In addition to her beautiful leaps and turns, Lynch also skillfully held every position as if she were posing for a picture. She provided a stunning ending to the “Swan Lake” half of the show.

After the intermission, “The Dying Swan,” performed by Derek S. Mueller ’10 and “courtesy of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals,” soured the show. Dressed in an outrageous swan tutu, Mueller pranced around, idiotically parodying the “Swan Lake” clichés. It was an entirely pointless moment of slapstick comedy that needlessly cheapened the previous half.

“Contra Finem” was the first actual performance of the second half. Set to a live cello Brahms piece, Schreier’s modern choreography was complex, compelling, and absolutely stunning. The dancers lived up to the difficult choreography with a beautiful blend of angularity and fluidity.

This group piece rivaled “Suffered Silence,” a solo choreographed and performed by Merritt A. Moore ’10, for the best performance of the evening. Moore choreographed for herself a very challenging, enthralling piece, brilliantly setting it to Rob Dougan’s bizarre “Clubbed to Death.” With every move, Moore successfully juxtaposed classical technique with contemporary movement—and excelled at both.

The second half of “From the Wings,” however, was not without its missteps. Kenney’s choreography for “Euridyce” was a poor imitation of Nijinsky choreography (the piece was set to Stravinsky), and “Playtime” missed an opportunity to produce a piece that was not only creative, but also technically grounded. Other pieces suffered because they focused too much on drama rather than on precise dancing. While “Leavings” only had a few moments of excessive drama, “Triptych,” a solo performed by Lauren E. Chin ’08, truly suffered for its reliance on drama. The result was shaky poses and sloppy dancing.

Yet other strong group pieces minimized the effect of these weaker aspects. “Slanting Sun,” “Tracks, Unlimited,” and “Corona” were all playful, creative choreographies that were beautifully executed by the dancers, revealing HBC’s greatest strength: the current. Though “From the Wings” featured some disappointing moments, the company ultimately shone most when it was producing original work in contemporary ballet.

—Staff writer Giselle Barcia can be reached at gbarcia@fas.harvard.edu.
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