Barre None: A Harvard Ballet Company Performance

November 21, 2010
Barre None

Barre None. Photo Credit: Edwin Yoo.

Recognizing the significance of this year´s first large show, the Harvard Ballet Company (HBC) advertised Barre None, the group´s latest performance, as an exciting foray into the 21st century world of dance.  With an impressive lineup of works by renowned choreographers George Balanchine and Peter Pucci, as well as new pieces by student dancers, HBC promoted a show that explored neoclassical and contemporary dance styles in today´s diverse and “ever-changing” world of dance.  And this past November 5th and 6th at the New College Theater, HBC more than delivered on its promise to provide a night of innovation and energy.  A harmonious combination of creativity, enthusiasm, variety and technical achievement, Barre None proved not only to explore the possibilities open to dance in the 21st century, but also to integrate them into a highly entertaining and stimulating performance.

Somewhat surprisingly for a show with such famous choreographers in its lineup, some of the most exciting pieces of the night were those choreographed by Harvard College students. “Reset,” a duet created by Ricky Kuperman ´11 and interpreted by Melanie J. Comeau ‘13 and Kevin Shee ‘11, was easily the most intense, exhilarating piece of the night.  Intimidatingly difficult lifts belying impressive strength and technical skill on the part of both dancers were perfectly matched by the hammering sounds of Coldplay´s “Politik” and the percussive use of strobe lights.  Mari Sosa ´12, another student choreographer, was also responsible for one of the show´s most interesting works.  In “Exit Tension,” Sosa set an all-female ensemble to the music of Iron and Wine, a soundtrack perhaps not typically destined for contemporary choreography, but which ended up working beautifully with her dynamic formations, transitions, and partner work while giving the dancers´ exuberance, such as that of stand-out Hazel Lever ‘13, a chance to shine.

Similarly, HBC achieved a laudable interpretation of the Balanchine piece.  With her impeccable technique and aplomb, Elizabeth C. Walker ´11 shone in the principal role of the excerpts from Balanchine´s “Walpurgisnacht Ballet,” and the rest of the cast seemed to follow her example–the corps de ballet in its unity of movement and the soloists in their technical strength and energy. The final dance, “Behind Closed Doors,” by Ashley A. Chung, HLS ‘12, was set to the pumping beats of The Faint’s “Posed to Death.” The music choice layered sexual tension over the chaotic tableaux, providing a dynamic closure to the show.

Although the cast of Pucci’s piece exhibited commendable harmony and spirit in their execution of the world-renowned guest artist’s work, the choreography itself was repetitive and lacked depth. At times, it seemed aimlessly chaotic, unlike the meaningful disorder of Chung’s piece. Despite the monotony of the choreography, the dancers’ movements were consistently synchronized, and their genuine enthusiasm brought the piece together. “Rediscovery,” by Rebecca Walker, HES Masters ´12, also failed to stand out, as its technical quality and somewhat contrived emotion didn´t measure up to the strength and enthusiasm of the show´s best pieces.

Overall, however, the show was an excellent way for the Harvard Ballet Company to inaugurate the year.  Barre None gracefully combined a diverse mix of styles, music, and choreography with largely consistent technical prowess and enthusiasm. The best pieces, such as those choreographed by Harvard College students and Balanchine, more than compensated for the few pieces which didn´t quite reach that highest level of achievement. A show that will prove difficult to follow up, Barre None successfully showcased the energy and true choreographic skill that exist within the HBC and set this year’s bar high for the Harvard dance community.

- The Harvard Art Review Dance Board

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