By: Susan Lenz
This Friday night, Columbia Classical Ballet takes the Koger Center stage with a program that will showcase the diverse talent within its ranks. The curtain will rise to Act II of La Bayadère, an exotic setting within an Indian Rajah's temple where promises of love and marriage are betrayed. After watching "class¹" on Monday morning, I am sure the company is up to the demands of this classical production. In fact, I wondered whether their strict posture and precision movements would translate well in the second act.
Can ballet convincingly portray rock ‘n’ roll?
Rick McCollough thought so! The former international dancer and artistic director of the Tallahassee Ballet set his choreography to a medley of familiar tunes, including ABBA's “Dancing Queen,” Aretha's “Respect,” and the Rolling Stone's “Under My Thumb.” A hint of humor makes for mostly seamless transitions despite the varied popular music selections. Pointe shoes and ZZ Tops' “Legs” certainly lived up to the lyrics, since they all know how to use them. Warren Zevon's “Werewolves of London” was a perfect pre-Halloween inclusion, though some of the hand movements reminded me a little too much of vampires and the coming Dracula: Ballet with a Bite production by Columbia's other professional company, Columbia City Ballet. I also very much liked the variety of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces that make up the production. The only song that didn't seem to work was “Piece of My Heart.” For me, it's too much of a stretch. I couldn't reconcile iconic images of Janis Joplin singing with raw ugliness of pain and heartbreak while a young, pretty dancer performs on pointe.
Be on a lookout for Nao Omoya, however. She's a real stand out and her smile certainly shows just how much these dancers really enjoy dancing to rock tunes. The program ends with Jon Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band's “Imagine.” My lasting thought was with the lyrics: “I hope someday you'll join us.” That day is this Friday! You wouldn't want to miss this show.
For tickets to Imagine: Ballet Rocks, a one night only performance this Friday, October 13th at 7:30 PM, please visit the Koger Center for the Arts box office here.
I am in debt to Columbia Classical Ballet's artistic director, Radenko Pavlovich, for the invitation to watch class and the production rehearsal.
¹ "Class" is the daily routine/practice dancers undergo before rehearsals and shows. Class is divided into two sections: Barre (done while holding a stationary, waist-high barre) starts slowly and progresses to quicker, more demanding footwork. Center includes turns and energetic movements that often crisscross the floor with jump combinations. Class ends with a révérence, a round of applause and each dancer personally thanking the instructor upon departure.)