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Denver ballet with strong Russian influence proves its versatility

Russian training is in the lineage at Colorado Ballet. The dancers hail from Moscow and Estonia—as well as San José, California. Allocating its budget to attract first-rate choreographers, it’s no surprise that Bolshoi-schooled Konstantin Uralsky was invited to set the “Rachmaninov Second” on the company. The March 6 audience at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College was treated to a rare view of ballet’s Russian heritage and the form it takes in dancing bodies.

The result was a “white ballet,” performed in long white tutus, to Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2. Simple drapery décor, also white, simulated classical columns.

“It’s about feelings and ways of moving that are not done much anymore,” CB’s artistic director Martin Fredman told me at intermission. The dance is difficult. Throughout, a look of consternation on principal Maria Mosina, a former principal at the Bolshoi Theater Grigorovich Ballet, confirmed that fact. The dozen dancers were stabilized in arabesque interrupted only by a series of very small hops on pointe. This worked as an appealing bit of choreography, and is a particular method of the company. In the air, from second position plié, beating legs fluttered, heightening the incredible lightness, the sense of a balloon about the dance. The method became for the dancers a delicate reverie.

The pairs of dancers looked upward, standing statuesquely, male and female behind or in front of each other, switching places to pose; one example of the neo in Uralsky’s classical ballet. The devil-may-care choreography featured generous views of the male butt in white tights. Why not?

Aside from the simple, elegant solutions that mark Uralsky’s gift, the ballet captured the romantic spirit of Rachmaninov but resisted its drama and grandiosity. The dancers often moved in unison, in carefully measured patterns. At the end, male and female bowed on one knee, clinching the old fashioned charm.

Four short dances gave an overview of the company’s range, super fine craft and musicality. Mosina was in her element in Toru Shimazaki’s exquisite duet to Felix Mendelssohn that features shoulder stands and repetitive motions of the arms and hands, expressive emanations redolent of Graham but for their rhythm. This was done, with Chauncey Parsons, in ballet slippers.

“Dracula” is a cult favorite with Denver audiences. In the pas de deux performed in Brooklyn, Chandra Gherke was a superb, languid, drained Lucy. Oleg Dedogryuk supported her as a loving Dracula. The riveting narrative was spurred by the dancers’ remarkable musicality and Philip Feeney’s score.

Marius Petipa’s “Talisman” is a duet that was performed to rather insipid music by Riccardo Drigo. It recalled an ice skaters’ show, but the gorgeous dancing and even the lavender fringed tunics came to life in alternating solos. Sharon Wehner shifted her weight easily and with infectious joi de vivre. Koichi Kubo’s fringes flew with him in show-stopping leaps and turns. The charm of this piece was its over-the-top virtuosity.

A gleaming and regal pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” featured Mosina, as a coquettish Titania, virtually floating in the night sky on the arms of Igor Vassin as Oberon. The backdrop was dotted magically with small incandescent bulbs. The entrance of Changeling Alyssa Cannalte, a tiny turbaned tot, completed the excerpt.

New York City choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie exemplified the fusion of styles famous in the West. The colorful costumes and acrobatic duets were upbeat. In a middle adagio, Parsons’ pensive solo in skin-tone tights was cool and fluid. He was memorably joined by Sayaka Karasugi. Near the end there was a procession across the stage; several quartets carrying an angular walking figure overhead—to deserved and appreciative applause. But despite festive energy and a potpourri of island forms and music, “Vital Sensations” was a bit of a let down. The complex, full company sequences looked crowded on the Brooklyn Center stage and the backdrop décor. The lavish, vital sensations presented didn’t equal the evocative magic of the other dances; but it nevertheless confirmed the remarkable versatility of this company, and Moultrie’s spectacular creativity.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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