Yesterday my old studio, Ballet Academy East, had their annual spring performance at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College. What I love (now as an audience member, and before while dancing there myself) about the school is its professionalism, particularly when it comes to performing. Every student looks their best, all appear well prepared, the stage is beautifully set, and costumes truly complement choreography.
The weekend’s four performances featured varied casts for the highest level roles: the leads in Balanchine’s “La Source,” NYCB principal Jonathan Stafford’s new ballet “A Simple Assortment,” and the ever-entertaining excerpts from “Don Quixote.” Rotating amongst the challenging choreography were 3 former classmates: Katie Kim, Chloe Sherman, and Alissa Stover. I shall not “review” with my personal bias, but suffice it to say that all are lovely in whatever task they tackle.
Katie’s sheer natural strength marks every role she takes and was best suited to the quick musicality of Balanchine’s sweet pink work. In cotton candy like, floppy tutus she and the corps used stellar technique to show off the real beauty of the choreography. The images that are created with these young able bodies are breathtaking as they weave, twirl, and lean. Having never seen “La Source,” before, I can say these dancers made it one of my new favorite pieces to watch.
Featured in the ballet’s pas de deux on Sunday were Alissa and Alex Castillo. Both worked well together to give a seamless performance. Alissa’s continued assurance through her long variation gave nod to her artistic strengths: her supple, wonderful feet and enviable arabesque line. And Alex marked his variation with such clean beats that almost define the school.
Though I think I would have preferred the casts reversed, with this couple in the more emotional pas de deux of Jon Stafford’s ballet, the two that did have these roles on Sunday were flawless. Chloe and Devon Carbone danced with great connection. The detailed partnering choreography was done effortlessly. Devon’s technique has really blossomed, not only in his work with a ballerina but on his own, which came through in later parts of the ballet. And Chloe has added an emotional depth to her already gorgeous physique.
The one who stole the show, however, in my opinion, was Hannah Marshall in her short solo. Stafford gave her movement that seemed to really express her strengths. What fantastic use of her upper body! She had a special breath through her long limbs, as if aching for something invisible far away from her. Later in the program her fierce technique shone, but here was a real artist. Take note: she’s one to watch!
Also on the program was the annual appearance of Marcia Dale Weary’s traditional ballet, “Un Petit Menuet” for the youngest dancers of the school. In curled braids and classic white, the little ones demonstrated promise and a clear understanding of the basic principles the school teaches: sharp feet, long knees, curved porte de bras a la Balanchine. Somehow this year’s group appeared older, or at least taller, than previous years. I would have liked to see them do more.
For the older levels not yet of age to perform on pointe was awesome faculty member Jenna Lavin’s new ballet “Concerto in F.” Set to Vivaldi, the almost academic piece gave a large group of students a moment to shine. Sweetly musical and like candied mints in green skirts, the dancers certainly showed they’re on their way to good things.
Closing the program was “Don Quixote Suite.” The playful entrance was led by the charming Alejandro Herrera, whose smile immediately brightened the stage with a lovely corps of enthusiastic, clapping dancers. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, dancing their best in the various sections for Flower Girls (Victoria Grempel and Hannah Marshall), Classical Ladies (in particularly beautiful off white/gold tutus courtesy of Louisville Ballet), and Toreadors (how fun this part must be for the men!). But Olivia Lipnick, as Mercedes, was by far the most perfectly cast! Not only did she simply look the part with her dark hair and red lips, but her cast-off flirtation was absolutely spot on. I don’t know if it was intentional or simply natural for her, but I had to giggle at how great it was. Her dancing, as well, was lovely.
The ballet ended with a festive release of confetti from the ceiling, with the dancers circling and dancing happily. It showed the joy they all took in performing, and perhaps their relief that it was all over. Another year complete, another performance down, another curtain falling. Onto the next!