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Lasting impressions

Festival Ballet's 'Up Close On Hope'
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  November 6, 2013

BREATHTAKING Putrius and Bauzys in 'Pieta.' [Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion]

In the current “Up Close On Hope” series at Festival Ballet Providence (continuing November 8 and 9;, there are two stunning and emotion-drenched pieces that are an excellent example of what dance can do. With movement, gesture, and music, this most evanescent of art forms can spin a narrative, flesh out characters, and touch something deep and universal inside each audience member.

Both dances in this nine-piece evening occur in the second act; both are duets between a male and female dancer; both leave lingering bits of music or images floating through your mind. Pieta, set to Gustav Mahler by Lithuanian choreographer Jurijus Smoriginas, is performed by Lithuanian natives (and husband-wife team) Mindaugas Bauzys and Vilia Putrius.

Opening to the Michelangelo pose of Mary holding her dead son Jesus, the piece unfolds to the grief of anyone losing a beloved, be it mate or family member. The dancers are completely in white, adding to the sculptural effect of the long-held moments, their slow and tentative responses to one another. Putrius is a study in sorrow, etched in her face and pouring through each limb. Bauzys must remain limp, his body spent of all motion, until her intense love briefly awakens his spirit and he rises to embrace and move with her. Breathtaking.

The other piece, Lovers’ Song, set to the incandescent Jacques Brel singing his “La chanson des vieux amants,” is by Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev, danced by Alex Lantz and Emily Loscocco with all the tender regrets, the forgiven hurts, the remembered joys of two “old” (i.e., “long-time”) lovers. The closing image is quite memorable: the dancers twirl, as she is first wrapped around his body and then lets her legs fly out, arms around his neck, as his hands release her torso and raise up in exultation to Brel’s lyrics: “I love you still, you know I love you.”

At the other end of the spectrum are the playful Heaven Can Wait and the satirical Tea Time. The latter is by the always-versatile and now resident choreographer at FBP Viktor Plotnikov. Set to the vivacious strains of Richard Strauss, this piece uses five female dancers in Martha Graham-like purple dresses, alternately acting snooty toward a sixth dancer, noses turned up at her, or sipping imaginary cups of tea, or, when they break out of conformity, doing a head-bobbing chicken movement or even a bit of the Monkey! Hilarious.

The trio of Ilya Burov, Alex Lantz, and Ian Matysiak compete for the best moves to the boogie-woogie of Ray Charles’s “Mess Around,” choreographed by George Birkadze, a Sarasota Ballet company member. Each dancer struts his stuff, with Matysiak tossing off a handspring, and all three grooving through their toes, shoulders, and elbows.

The two world premieres of the evening are The Daily Grind, by former FBP dancer Mark Harootian, and Tzigani (Gypsy), another piece by Birkadze. The second is full of sounds (music by Aleksandra Vrebalov), sights (colorful costumes), steps, and gestures associated with the Roma culture. This quartet of dancers (Matysiak, Burov, Brenna DiFrancesco, and Kirsten Evans) pay tribute to the fun and flirtation imbued in Roma music and dance.

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