Metropolitan Ballet makes magic in the Wild West of "Rodeo" and the enchanted forest of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Dance review: Classical ballet and a ballet classic - Metropolitan Ballet captures essence of two dances
BY LINDA SHAPIRO
Special to the Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 06/22/2007 01:54:51 PM CDT
At first glance, the two ballets in the Metropolitan Ballet's riveting program at the State Theatre couldn't be more stylistically diverse. Agnes de Mille's 1942 "Rodeo" puts a cowgirl tomboy, and the whole notion of ballet, in the midst of an identity crisis. The movement doesn't look like ballet; it incorporates cowboy moves, folk dances, even tap dance. Whereas "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is the essence of ballet, Shakespeare's bucolic comedy choreographed afresh by Jennifer Hart.
Yet each ballet captures the essence of a fully realized world.
"Rodeo" presents a vision of the Wild West tamed but still seething with uncertainty. It's more "Oklahoma!" (which de Mille later choreographed, and which owes a considerable debt to "Rodeo") than HBO's "Deadwood." Clean-cut cowboys do stylized versions of riding, roping and standing tall as four-square macho guys.
The women are a bit prissy and yielding, but sometimes give us a glimpse of frontier rigors by shading their eyes to look warily out at the endless horizon.
The Cowgirl, performed with spastic charm and iron determination by Michelle Mahawald, is a misfit who likes the Wrangler (Andrei Jouravlev) but can't identify with being pretty in pink like the lady he favors (Laura Goodman).
What makes this conventionally plotted ballet hum is the underlying sense of a small community of people surrounded - and sometimes oppressed - by the vast space they inhabit. Even as the dancers alamande left and snake through side-winding hoedown patterns, we are aware of the isolation that confines them.
The enchanted forest of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," on the other hand, abounds with fairies, anxious lovers and exotic woodland creatures who ride the currents of Mendelssohn's lush music, plotting and scheming. Hart's sinuous flow of movement meticulously spins dance and drama into a theatrical melange light as gossamer wings, witty as a French farce.
The splendid cast rises to the occasion, dancing with pliant musicality and nuanced gestures. The charmed lovers (Goodman, Leah Gallas, Andrew Lester and Nicholas Lincoln) embody their bewilderment in quicksilver shifts of direction, wittily demonstrating that the course of true love is supple and devious.
Mifa Ko's luminous fairy queen Titania is pure liquefaction- she melts, she quivers, she flickers like a flame. Her consort Oberon, danced with noblesse oblige and mischievous charm by Ramon Thiele, partners her attentively and pays her back (sort of) for her sassy, independent ways. The entire cast - from bumptious rustics to buoyant fairies - bestows upon this dream an airy and fluid magic.