Monday, February 11, 2013

Company C Contemporary Ballet

Gala Program, 2013
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
February 9th, 2013

It has been two years since I last saw Company C Contemporary Ballet onstage and in that time, significant changes have been made to the company roster. As some dancers have moved on and new additions have been welcomed, one truth has held firm: this troupe holds a commitment and vision for diverse, challenging and exciting contemporary repertoire. Under the Artistic Direction of Charles Anderson, the 2013 Gala Program brought five works from across the artistic spectrum, ranging from campy entertainment to elegant depth. Company C’s rep crosses boundaries, confronts conventions and most important, seeks to create an ongoing relationship and conversation with its audience.

The evening began with the premiere of Anderson’s “Boys, Blonds and Balls”, a quartet for two couples that also incorporated two full-size fitness balls. The overall feeling of the piece was one of seductive allure and old-school mystery, in which the yoga balls played several theatrical roles: as sets, as props and as extensions of the body. “Railroad Joint”, Yuri Zhukov’s etude on articulation followed - this world premiere the result of Company C’s 2012 choreographic competition. Zhukov’s composition expertly delved into movement and mechanics, exploring how the intersection of the two conjure images, create shapes and command space. The first scene found the cast of seven emerged in small reflexive motions (both as individuals and as a collective), which then accelerated and developed over the rest of the dance. “Railroad Joint” was a choreographic highlight of this program with an equal dose of artistic sensibility and kinesthetic approach.

Act I was rounded out with two shorter works by Anderson: “For Your Eyes Only” and a comical “Swan Lake” vignette. “For Your Eyes Only” is a hauntingly raw pas de deux, danced flawlessly at this performance by Chantelle Pianetta and Bobby Briscoe. During his opening remarks, Anderson revealed that this ballet was originally choreographed to be part of a program for the hearing impaired, and to that end, it takes place unaccompanied, in silence. The result was a stage full of human sculpture with dynamic diversity: from floaty port de bras to accented grand battements. And without music to rely on or hide behind, a unique vulnerability and choreographic truth rose from the stage. Right before intermission, we were treated to Anderson’s farcical interpretation of the “Swan Lake” cygnets. This short scene juxtaposed the women ‘en pointe’ in the classical variation against three men tap dancing the choreography. It was very fun, silly and entertaining, though it would have been even more so if all of the guys could actually tap. There was a lot of ‘faking’ going on (except for one of the dancers, who was obviously a trained tapper), and that lack of skill did not add to the comedy at all.  

Pictured: Tian Tian in "For Use In Subhuman Primates Only"
Choreography by Patrick Corbin
Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

The Gala evening concluded with Patrick Corbin’s new work, “For Use In Subhuman Primates Only”, set to a ‘Massive Attack’ soundscore. Sub-divided into four sections (each to one individual song), the dance transports the audience to an underground club scene, complete with metallic costumes and pulsating rhythms. Choreographic variance was the order of the day, with movement ranging from classic petit allegro (assembl├ęs and soubresauts) to disco to animal-inspired sequences. As the piece wore on, it seemed that Corbin was attempting to deal with the evolutionary process in some way, but I’m not sure that he was successful. “For Use In Subhuman Primates Only” was more psychedelic rave and less kinesthetic study. Though, it did reveal David Van Ligon as the quintessential partner. He has it all and has mastered his craft: tall, strong, supportive, all with a lithely grace and masculine fervor. 

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