Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘The Best of Movemedia’ is inspiring and creative
By Adrienne Warber
Grand Rapids Ballet is known for their top notch performances, and last weekend’s production of “The Best of Movemedia” was one of their finest. This year’s annual contemporary dance series installment featured some of their most critically acclaimed works by leading choreographers. The production ran in three shows from March 18-20, and each show had a full theatre. “The Best of Movemedia” showcased the bright talent of the Grand Rapids Ballet dancers and the creativity of today’s contemporary choreographers.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Best of Movemedia” featured the works of world renowned choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Robyn Mineko Williams, Kirk Peterson, Olivier Wevers, Thom Dancy, Penny Saunders and Brian Enos. “The Best of Movemedia” presented dance numbers that were all truly entertaining. Each one engaged the senses in some way, whether it was a sense of awe, humor, or getting lost in the beauty of the movements. This was the type of show that showed the artistry and many facets of dance. It was a contemporary dance series, but the influence of classical ballet was evident, and blended smoothly. There was a beauty in the combination of a loose-limbed contemporary movement paired with a classical ballet straight leg. The dancers also showed a great range of emotion and acting skills in their performances. It was apparent that they found joy in their dancing, which made the show more enjoyable for the audience.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Memorias Del Dorado Opening,” was just as stunning as it was when it first premiered in 2014. Lopez Ochoa is particularly good at creating pieces with compelling stories that evoke an emotional response from the audience. “Memorias Del Dorado” translates to “Memories of the Land of Gold,” tells the story of Colombia, which began when the Spanish conquistadors stole gold from the indigenous Colombian people, and led to the blending of Spanish and native people that make up modern Colombia. Eight male dancers portrayed the conquering conquistadors and their strong dancing really showed the ruthless way the conquistadors robbed the treasures of the native Colombians. Seven female dancers represented the gold and the native Colombians. Their movements were artistic and they created lovely statue-like poses when they represented the gold. The conquistadors treated them like objects, moved them and even threw one around. This showed the brutality of the conquistadors invading Colombia. The piece is thought-provoking and emotional.
Robyn Mineko Williams’ “One Take,” which also premiered in 2014, was one of the most memorable pieces of the show. “One Take” paired the dancing with a movie screen, projections and film clips in the background. One segment showed an old man, bent and moving slowly, seeing himself young again, standing straight and tall. The two men, portrayed by dancers Nicholas Schultz and Steven Houser, do a good job mirroring each other’s movements. Other memorable segments include one where dancers appear to dance with their shadows, which are projected onto the movie screen in the background. The highlight of Williams’ “One Take” is the moving partnering sequence between dancers Nicholas Schultz and Laura McQueen Schultz that was beautiful and heartbreaking. The Schultzes danced with strong technique and deep emotion.
Kirk Peterson’s “Amazed in Burning Dreams Finale,” first performed in 2013, was a perfect blend of contemporary and classical ballet. The cast consisted of 14 dancers – seven men and seven women. The women danced on pointe. The dancing was full of athleticism and graceful, fluid movements. The turns and leaps were well-executed. It was a visual feast of superb dancing.
Olivier Wevers’ “The Sofa Pas de Deux,” presented for the first time in 2012, was a creative and emotional glimpse into a fading relationship. The sofa was like another character on stage, that got in the way of their relationship. The pas de deux involved lifts, turns and bending movements that told the story of the relationship and their struggle. Yuka Oba and Nicholas Schultz were paired well together, and danced with emotion.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s Attila Mosolygo, who is currently the Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company’s Artistic Director, came out of retirement to dance in Thom Dancy’s “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me!” Mosolygo originally played the role in 2013, when the Dancy’s work first premiered. Mosolygo did an excellent job portraying the humorous role. His performance made the audience smile and laugh out loud many times, and he got a standing ovation at the Friday night performance.
Grand Rapids Ballet presented the world premiere of Penny Saunders’ work, “Joe & Ida,” at “The Best of Movemedia.” Saunders’ works are very creative and a great blend of contemporary movement and classical ballet technique. The cast of six dancers – three women and three men – danced with strong technique and personality, and worked well together. “Joe & Ida” was a sweetly romantic number.
The show ended with Brian Enos’ delightful “Nae Regrets.” The Celtic number was a nice follow-up to the Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. The number began with a Scottish immigrant arriving in America. There were group numbers and partnering scenes that featured contemporary dance with Celtic dance movements. Cassidy Isaacson did a good job when she performed a fun and flirty number where she outsmarts some drunk guys trying to flirt with her. Laura McQueen Schultz danced with beauty and strong emotion in her solo. “Nae Regrets” was enjoyable and the highlight of the show.
The audience gave “The Best of Movemedia” a standing ovation, and people were smiling as they left the theatre. It was clear the audience had a good time. Grand Rapids Ballet’s production of “The Best of Movemedia” may be one of the best shows of the season. It is another example of the high level of art entertainment that the company provides the West Michigan community.
Originally published on Examiner.com on March 22, 2016