By Bridget Seelinger | The Duquesne Duke
This past weekend, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rose to new heights with its first performance of the 2015-16 season, “Mixed Repertoire #1: Western Symphony.” Pittsburgh Ballet had an outstanding performance in three of the most unique and technically challenging ballets.
Jiri Kylian’s “Sinfonietta,” a ballet that tells the story of the joy felt by Czechs freed from the tyranny of the Soviet Union, William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” a ballet that clearly showed what Pittsburgh Ballet can do, all under the gaze of golden cherries hanging from the ceiling, and the master choreographer George Balanchine’s “Western Symphony,” an ode to the old west, all were performed together and performed extraordinarily well.
The first in the lineup was “Sinfonietta.” It’s essentially what one would expect at the ballet: flowy dresses, elegant technique and romantic music. The orchestra’s brass section took to the stage with the dancers, and it added some gusto to the performance. The choreography for this ballet hints at a power that is being withheld, despite the dancers’ graceful movements. Performers demonstrate controlled strength with lifts and positioning, which transitions to more free and joyful movements. Pittsburgh Ballet executed “Sinfonietta” wonderfully. With Yoshiaki Nakando’s graceful leaps across the stage and Julia Erickson’s stunning arabesques, “Sinfonietta” was the perfect beginning to a wonderful evening.
The audience was startled into the second ballet, “In the Middle Somewhat Elevated,” as the lights flashed on suddenly. This ballet is strikingly different from “Sinfonietta,” with metallic, modern music and lighting that exaggerates shadows. The aforementioned flowy dresses and romantic costumes are nowhere to be seen. “In the Middle Somewhat Elevated” is all about competition and attitude; Pittsburgh Ballet clearly showed that they are not playing around. Soloist, Alejandro Diaz wowed the audience with his incredible plies and soloist, Hannah Carter. impressed many with her sassy precision. The dancers were dressed in black and electric green. The company came to show what they could do, and exceeded expectations.
“Western Symphony” was the perfect way to end the evening. This ballet was amusing to watch, mostly because it looked fun to dance. The company donned cowboy hats, boots and snazzy show girl costumes for this ballet, which used familiar American folk tunes. At one point during the performance, the audience started clapping in time to the music. Married couple Christopher Budzynski and Alexandra Kochis danced together in the second movement with playful smiles and Julia Erickson impressed the audience in the third movement with her fabulous big black hat. The finale featured some of the most impressive Pittsburgh Ballet choreography to date, if not from the sheer number of dancers, then from the perfect timing of each and every one of them. It was a true disappointment to see the curtain come down after such a spectacular and spell binding performance.
After viewing this first mixed repertoire, anticipation is certainly high for this new season. Pittsburgh Ballet truly demonstrated the wide range of their abilities. The live orchestra was a real asset to this series of performances, especially the brass section in “Sinfonietta.”
Duquesne students, faculty and staff are eligible for discounted tickets through Pittsburgh Cultural Trust by entering the promo code 1516DUQ at checkout. Tickets prices are $15 and up. The next performance by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is “Nutcracker” premiering on Dec. 4. Dance on down and get your tickets today before it is too late.