As I arrived at the Victoria Theatre on spring-like Sunday afternoon, I was curious to see how this season would end for this venerable troupe. While there were a few surprises, the final spring concert of the Dayton Ballet season ended on a quiet note.
The concert began with former artistic director Dermott Burke’s Fete des Courtiers; a swirling confection of neoclassical formalism, it was perfectly perfunctory in form and execution as couples moved through formations that hinted at a noble engagement. While Fete Des Courtiers broke no new ground choreographically, it nevertheless engaged both the performers and the viewer.
Susanne Payne’s Interactions was a winner of the choreographic competition that Dayton Ballet held three years ago and it has not lost any of it’s charm or choreographic vitality. I have always believed that Ms. Payne is a tremendous artistic asset to Dayton Ballet and to the cultural fabric of our community when she creates works like this. Her talents for generating unique movement vocabulary is wildly entertaining. This was the first time we had a chance to explore the talents that she possesses and she continues to grow and develop artistically. It is evident that over the past few years Dayton Ballet has benefited from an influx of new performers with their energy and ability to tackle the modernist movement vocabulary of Ms. Payne; in turn helping to illuminate her work to dazzling effect. Interactions felt as vibrant and thrilling now as its did during its world premiere a few years ago.
Next up on the bill was Jessica Lang’s From Foreign Lands and People. And what a powerful and unique work. When the curtaine opened we were presented with several four-sided columns from five to ten feet tall as well as a group of dancers. As a viewer you were automatically expecting some interaction or engagement with the columns. As the work progressed you were surprised just how farthat interaction would go. The dancers manipulated the columns into slides and hurdles that they moved across, rolled and leaped under and over, respectively. They then proceeded to stack the columns into evocative sculptural tableaus. The choreography was sublime in the economy of its construction. Jessica Lang weaved a magical spell on the audience that left more than one person in the theatre swooning with giddy satisfaction. This is a work that bears repeating and deserves to be in the repertory of the company. It is a sure fire audience pleaser and beautifully constructed work of art.
The concert concluded with Karen Burke Russo’s Canyons, a semi-abstract work that highlights her skills as a choreographer to maximum effect. Canyons evoked a Native-American motif in the imagery and movement vocabulary without being so literal as to fall into tropes and mawkish triviality. The dancers danced it with a beautifully modulated sense of control and abandonment, which they displayed consistently throughout the concert. Dayton Ballet is benefiting from a similar scenario that exists for Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; an A company of young and eager performers that are pushing the performance quality of older works in the rep as well providing a blank canvas for new and thrilling choreographers in which to create their particular form of artistic alchemy. Now is the time to be bold and decisive. While it may not draw record crowds, it makes a better case for relevancy and the right for continued support from the community.