'New Works' offers the fabulous and the unpredictable
Major arts organizations are terrified of programming like Cincinnati Ballet's season-opening "New Works." It's unpredictable and it's risky, both things that big arts institutions loathe. You commission a bunch of choreographers, sell tickets and then hope that what gets created is worthwhile.
For die-hard arts lovers, it rarely gets more exhilarating than this.
This year's "New Works," which runs through Sept. 19, is like one of those massive flea markets. Some of the stuff is fabulous. Some is what you expected. And then there are the others.
It starts off uncertainly. Sergey Sergiev's "Dreaming in Colour" is a curious and disjunct work. The most intriguing aspect of it, in fact, are So Yon Nam's costumes. Looking ever-so-much like the work of a resurrected Dada artist, they feature bodysuits decorated with jagged patches of color, swimming goggles or, in some cases, dancers with their faces covered. The effect is like a cross between a 1930s sci-fi flick and a Cirque du Soleil act.
But from there on, the program picks up steam.
Jessica Lang's "For Always, Forever" is an elegant and tender work, danced by two of the company's most revered veteran performers, Sarah Hairston and Zack Grubbs.
It's jubilant, in a grown-up sort of way - appropriate, since it was commissioned by board member Julie Shifman to commemorate the 25th anniversary of her marriage to Steven Shifman.
Ka-Ron Brown Lehman's "The Periapt" is a throwback of a piece, a 1950s style psychological romance, with more than a few references to the work of Martha Graham, especially in Gema Diaz's role as a loveless harridan.
The second act is the stronger - or at least the more appealing - of the two.
Artistic director Victoria Morgan shows a far broader choreographic range than we have seen here before. With a score by Daniel Joseph Dorff, Morgan has not only challenged herself, but principal dancer Janessa Touchet as well.
Missy Lay Zimmer and Andrew Hubbard - artistic directors of Cincinnati's Exhale Dance Tribe - offered a preview of a longer work the company will perform in the spring. With a score by Over The Rhine, it is smoldering and sensuous, especially as danced by Dawn Kelly and Maizyalet Velázquez.
The finale, Heather Britt's "Strange Loop," features a memorable score by Cincinnati composer Peter Adams. It's majestic, really, in a "Magical Mystery Tour-ish" sort of way. Adams' music has a way of making you feel like something important is unfolding in front of you. And it infuses the dance with an equally momentous quality.
Choreographer Britt does her part, of course. She came to Cincinnati as a workaday choreographer, best-known for her high-energy and wildly popular Rhythm in Motion classes. But with each succeeding piece of choreography she does, Britt gets more confident, more complex and more interesting.
This piece is something that any dance company would welcome into its repertoire. Alluring group dances, some dazzling solos - an especially ferocious one for Ogulcan Borova - and a lustrous, thrill-a-minute quality that is sure to have "New Works" crowds leaping to their feet.
"New Works" is performed through Sept. 19; for information, 513-621-5282, cballet.org.
PHOTOGRAPHY: BUZZ WARD. PROVIDED BY CINCINNATI BALLET.