Of the three pieces, the first work, Klein Perspectives, a world premiere choreographed by Andrea Schermoly, had the most technical dancing. For this reason, it was my favorite of the evening. It featured Danielle Bausiger, Elysa Hotchkiss, Angelina Ansone, Sarah Joan Smith, Molly Wagner, Joshua Bodden, Michael Davis, Liang Fu, Charles Martin, and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. The staging of the moving “boxes” to reveal different dancers for different movements was brilliant. The piece opened with Pereira dos Santos carrying Smith upside down towards the audience. As he reached the edge of downstage, he swept her around his body multiple times, all the while she remained straight as a board. The strength their movement required was lost in their fluid effortlessness. During one of the first movements of the piece, Smith essembléd up a few feet away from Pereira dos Santos, and her momentum landed her straight into his arms without him moving towards her as the audience gasped an “ahhhh” of fascination.
The entire cast of Klein Perspectives beautifully performed the technicality of the steps fluidly with the choreography’s modern movements. However, Bodden and Wagner stood out among the others. During a duet, Bodden’s grandé jetés paused mid-air for each leap, over and over again. Wagner’s coupé pirouettes were powerful and precise, stepping right into each new step.
James Kudelka’s The Man in Black comprised of six songs covered by Johnny Cash and performed by Taryn Mejia, Michael Davis, Dillon Malinski, and Kevin Wilson. The Man in Black grows on you: once you know what to expect from the choreography and from the dancers—because you know what to expect with the music—you can relax into the piece and really enjoy it for what it is. It was simple and acoustic, just like Johnny Cash. There were more difficult moments that make the work genius, but it was never designed to be a fanfare production, only pure, good performance.
Throughout the entire piece, the dancers stayed attached to one another, often times by holding hands; there was a sense of small community among the dancers. In Sam Hall, the dancers grandé jeté diagonally across the stage, linked together, and land on the same beat every time. The best performance from the piece was during If You Could Read My Mind. Each dancer took turns puppeting one another to illustrate the lyrics to the song. Their fluidity through each transition was perfectly performed.
The only part of The Man in Black that I did not care for was in the second chorus of Hurt. Davis was featured in the movement. His movements were strong and deliberate, but he began to flail his body as the other dancers tried to squelch him; the flailing seemed out of place and awkward.
The final piece of the evening was set to music by Moby and choreographed by Stanton Welch. Play was a fun piece about life in New York City. It began during the second intermission. The curtain rose and dancers were positioned on stage, seemingly warming up. Play included dancers Daniele Bausinger, Kaleena Burks, Lilliana Hagerman, Kelsey Hellebuyck, Hotchkiss, Sansone, Smith, Bodden, Sasha Chernjasky, Enrico Hipolito, Dillon Malinski, Martin, Gustavo Ribeiro, and Cameron Thomas. However, the most noted were Wagner and James Kirby Rogers. Each time they were featured in a duet, my focus stayed with them.
I would say that if a showcase of dancing ability, technique, strength, and agility is what you are craving, this was not the performance to attend. I am not saying that the dancers did not perform with these qualities, for they most certainly did, but the dancers’ talents were not highlighted. There were particular moments in all three pieces that were rich to take in, but I have no desire to view any of them a second time.
Kansas City Ballet 60th Anniversary Dance Festival Week Two
The Man in Black
Reviewed: Friday, April 13, 2018
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
1601 Broadway, Kansas City, MO
For more information visit www.kcballet.org
Cover photo: Kansas City Ballet Dancer Michael Davis in “The Uneven” from Week I. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.