2003 Season • Review
Dancers Take Big Leap with Bach
July 14, 2003
By Janet Descutner for The Register-Guard
A septet of dancers presented the Eugene Ballet Company’s newest choreography by artistic director Toni Pimble in an Oregon Bach Festival program Friday on the Silva Concert Hall stage. The festival’s chamber orchestra played upstage of the dancers, behind a see-through scrim.
In the three movements of Bach’s Concerto in D Major for Three Violins and Orchestra (BWV 1064), Pimble emphasized the agility, elevation, stretch and strength of her performers, four men and three women.
Frank Affrunti, returning to Eugene Ballet after four years away, joined Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero, Jonathan Guise and Petr Orlov in Pimble’s demanding, high-powered choreography, peppered with split jumps and vaulting leaps, spiced with generous doses of quadruple turns.
Together with Neysa Fulsome, Phyllis Rothwell-Armes and Stephanie Parker, they contributed sparkling visual dazzle to the vigorous musical palette generated by violinists Kathleen Lenski, Elizabeth Baker and Jacqueline Brand.
Pimble’s introduction of seated floor turns for the women brought a contemporary flavor to the style of the work, which also expanded the physical range and uses of flexibility beyond the classical realm. At times, the pace and sequence of high energy, high extension and high contrast pushed the envelope of control and integration, almost overwhelming the performers by its forward drive. Applause burst forth in recognition of these challenging feats.
Sweeping arm gestures and lifts – with the women’s legs extended to shoulder level and chests arched up – rose on the soaring musical refrains. Lyrical mixtures of dancers interwove in diagonal crossings progressing downstage.
Amy-Cordero burst through, going all-out in a solo of multiple turns, a bit heavy in landing his air turns at the frenetic pace. Fulsome and Parker, airborne and turning, were joined by Orlov, lifting them alternately, with jumps splashing up between. The trio became a quintet, then a duet by Affrunti and Rothwell-Armes, turning on and above the floor.
Concertmaster Lenski and ensemble began the second work, Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major (BWV 1066), a group of dance forms in A-B-A structure.
During “Ouverture,” slides of familiar European paintings introduced Pimble’s subjects for colorful choreographic commentary: boy blowing bubbles; bewigged dandies posing in stiff jackets with black hats; outdoor scenes of maskers, midgets and paupers; ladies reading or stroking miniature dogs; and “The Swing,” a gently lascivious view of two gentlemen glancing up the skirts of the lady they assist in her arcing flight above the ground.
Pimble’s attention in this work was on character, with tongue-in-cheek references to the formal qualities in the art, music and interplay of human foibles she conjured up.
Designer Lito John Demitita’s costumes effectively suggested clothing from the paintings’ visual prologue. The women wore red corset tops and gently billowing, knee-length red skirts with white tulle beneath, changing accessories and props to define differences in subject. Men sported various colors of knee-length pants with white, full-sleeved shirts, capes and various hats.
The performers effectively physicalized Pimble’s characterization, prop manipulation and choreographic invention.
In a pas de trois, capes on poles wrapped, concealed and revealed a girl inside, with sweeping turns. The women began a theme of blowing soap bubbles, joined by Orlov blowing bubbles between entrechats, directing them down Parker’s bodice. An itching developed, for which he offered scratching help. Affrunti, puffed up with prowess, dealt with Guise’s toothache in dentistry that lifted Guise into huge leaps of pain. Amazingly, the women lined up for tooth surgery as well. Drawn into reading, they were accosted by Guise with a feather pen.
Wearing a white dunce cap, Orlov tossed off more spectacular turns and jumps. Parker, Orlov and Guise returned. Guise was impressive multiple turns, after which Parker was tossed into more swing analogies. A masked couple returned, and after a series of flying turns, was joined by the others for a grandly received finish to this balletic dessert.
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