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Superb Aspen Santa Fe Ballet excites audience at E. J. Thomas Hall

Roy Berko

Member:  Dance Critics Association

Dance Cleveland opened its 59th season in spectacular style with a performance of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at E. J. Thomas Hall, on the University of Akron Campus.  The company, which was founded in 1996, has two official schools, one in Aspen, one in Santa Fe, and a year-round Mexican outreach program.

The huge audience, which filled the orchestra section of the auditorium, was enthralled by the eleven person company’s creativity and discipline.  They lived up to their advanced billing for adventurous dancing.  The style has been credited with “epitomizing the contemporary-classic genre.”

The program opened with “Over Glow,” choreographed by Jorma Elo, and performed to music by Felix Mendelssohn and Ludwig van Beethoven.  The composition was danced with precision, with three male clones and three females who could have been triplets in physical style and appearance.  The dynamic music was perfectly paralleled in mood and temperament by Elo’s dance designs.

Combining classical ballet moves with modern movements, the body shifts, freezes, lifts, running, slides, spins, and jumps were a master class in combining the two styles.  The finely gym toned bodies of the dancers created enthralling visual and emotional pictures.

If “Over Glow” had been the sole offering on the program, the audience would have been satisfied, but it was only the appetizer.

“Return to a Strange Land,” set to four emotional pieces by Czech composer Leoš Janáček, and choreographed by Jiří Kylián, Czech contemporary dance choreographer, explored the limitations and capabilities of space, body parts, entrances, exits, and contrasts, with some humorous overtones.  The distinctive movements, which incorporated dancers running and sliding across the floor, combined classical ballet and modern dance.  With overtones of sadness and longing, the overarching feeling was that of hope.

“Square None” was choreographed by Norbert De La Cruz III, a young Filipino-American.  Still in his twenties, the Julliard School graduate is noted for his creation of inventive and haunting characters.  Accented by creative lighting, the dancers thrust their limbs in and out of the squares of lights, parts of their bodies often seeming to disappear.  Constantly changing from intertwining patterns, to unison solo dancing, the performers seemed to be playing a game in which the musical notes set the pattern and tone for point and counter-point movements.   The overall effect was an audience-pleasing experience.

Capsule judgement:  Pam Young, executive director of Dance Cleveland has done it again.  Young has the ability to find dance companies that entertain and delight audiences.  Her selection of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet futher confirms her grasp of the national and international dance scene and makes sure that Cleveland area audiences experience the best.

Next presentation by Dance Cleveland is the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, presented through the sponsorship of the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, on Saturday, November 8 @ 8 PM and Sunday, November 9 @3 PM at the Ohio Theatre.