Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Baker's Dozen -- ABT at Bard College, Friday October 17, 2008

Overheard in the washroom at intermission after Baker's Dozen:
"There weren't any principal dancers in that piece, but they were all really good!"

LOL! I'll say! Understatement of the evening.
Divided into five pieces, Baker's Dozen (with its non-baker's, but actual dozen of loosely mated dancers), its sections titled "Relaxin'", "Echoes of Spring", "Tango à la Caprice" and "Relaxin", received its world premiere on February 15, 1979 and its ABT premiere last year during the City Center Season.The ballet begins with a lengthy piano overture to set the mood. The dancers are dressed in white and beige from head to toe, evoking the ambiance of elegant Long Island parties in the early part of the last century, at least as we have been encouraged to imagine them in novels such as "The Great Gatsby". With jazzy music as smooth as the dresses for their setting, a dozen dancers assemble and disassemble in various pairings, often with comical results.

Cincinnati Ballet dancers in Baker's Dozen

This is a nostalgic romp, riddled with youthful antics, for a social group of friends who are having romantic fun and are trying to outdo each other in their solo turns. Dancers get thrown around from one to another, get flipped upside down, fall unexpectedly from the wings into the arms of whoever's onstage at the moment, dance out of the wings only to be pulled back in again by the leg, slide or get propelled across the floor, and generally ham it up.
I was sitting so close to the stage that I could see the facial expressions clearly, a necessity to get the most enjoyment out of this ballet. The intimate relationship of my seat to the performance floor gave me a vantage point that was almost like an in-studio view. The choice of contemporary works for the Bard program is perfect for closeup viewing. Classical ballet with its elaborate costuming, props, and stage scenery requires an audience to be seated further back in order to support the illusion. But I just love being close! One can really identify every dancer and see their strengths and abilities.
I saw incredibly arched feet on all the women (the entire cast wore white jazz shoes) which just dazzled! Speedy yet very precise movements displayed stellar technique. Gestures which might not be seen by those seated further away helped make the ballet as they showcased the acting ability of the dancers. And the energy! It came pouring out of each dancer with gushes of frenetic choreography, seamlessly sequeing into generous swaths of exquisite perfect-lined pas de deux (or trois) highlighting the gorgeous technique of each dancer. Oh the legs! The turnout! The comedy!
Standouts of this performance of Baker's Dozen: Devon Teuscher (loveliness and beauty dreamily personified), Kristi Boone (crisp, sassy, athletic), Thomas Forster (ebullient stage presence), Eric Tamm (super charisma), and number one standout: TOBIN EASON! (a smile that embraced the whole auditorium, a honed technical display of dancing, impetuous maneuvers, playful and mischievous facial expressions). Tobin was my fave of the first act, and Eric Tamm's shining performance also stayed with me.
Blaine Hoven and Maria Ricetto in Baker's Dozen

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