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Culture news, 12.10.2004 10:47

Lone Star Ballet, Russians team for strong opening

balet_partnership The Amarillo Globe-News

By Chip Chandler

Two worlds combined Saturday in an evening of contemporary dance that presented art as a unifying force.

Amarillo's Lone Star Ballet and Kannon Dance Company of St. Petersburg, Russia, joined forces in "A Partnership with Russia," LSB's season-opening performance in the Amarillo Civic Center Auditorium.

Most of the seven ballets were pure Russian-American collaborations, featuring dancers of both countries performing choreography set upon them by choreographers of both nationalities. The result was a nice step beyond LSB's old tradition of simply hosting a guest dance company.

The evening opened with the mysterious, intriguing "Songs of Komitas," choreographed by Kannon's artistic director, Natalia Kasparova, and featuring the company's six dancers. With an accompanying high-pitched, reedy squeal, the dancers came out in lithe, fluid formations - passionate movement, yet abstract and thought-provoking.

Kasparova also choreographed the second piece, this time featuring LSB's full corps of dancers. Kasparova celebrated two American artists - Duke Ellington and Jerome Robbins - in a piece that recalled Robbins' choreography in "West Side Story" - jazzy, intense and cool.

The evening's second half opened with Kannon dancer Anna Ozerskaya's bizarre but engaging "Once Upon a Time," a comic number that outfitted the dancers in hillbilly gear and featured an unusual pas de deux between Kannon's Dmitry Burakov and Yulia Kryukova, as well the input of a handful of LSB dancers.

Kasparova took over the central role in "Come and Go," another comic dance, this one focused on a loose-limbed battle over a park bench between Kasparova and LSB dancers Kyla Olson and Jean Taute, both of whom more than holding their own against the experienced dancer.

The dance companies saved the best for last, though, with a trio of knockout ballets: Kasparova's "Three Colors for Henri" and LSB artist director Edward R. Truitt's "Misguided Faith" and "Energy Unbound."

"Henri," inspired by the dancer portraits of artist Henri Matisse, combined Matisse's poses with Kasparova's unusual pairings of dancers, especially in dramatic work by Burakov and Ozerskaya.

"Faith" was equally gripping, though a far more dark and unsettling piece inspired by religious cults. A charismatic Burakov danced the central role, with a corps of dancers surrounding him in gleaming white tunics and arms raised in supplication.

The night came to a blistering close with "Energy Unbound," featuring a score of dancers from both companies in a nonstop, dynamic performance. The title is especially apt: The piece is an absolute explosion of music, movement and lights. Simply thrilling.

Beyond the outstanding dance, the evening also showcased some brilliant lighting work, designed by Lynn Hart. The whole effect was a strong start for the ballet's season.

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