Carolina Ballet’s current program, featuring works by three choreographers, may be its best mixed-bill ever. It balances light and dark, lyric and dramatic, emerging talent and established masters.
Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s 2000 “December Songs” uses seven selections from Broadway composer Maury Yeston’s song cycle of the same name. The setting is a park bench, where a young woman (Broadway star and Raleigh native Lauren Kennedy) sings of love lost and hoped for, as dancers play out the situations.
Taylor-Corbett’s sense of theater makes the characters vivid and immediate, whether its Yevgeny Shlapko’s jagged, agonized leaps remembering a former love, Lara O’Brien and Timour Bourtasenkov’s melancholy coupling after a chance meeting, or Randi Osetek’s joyous high kicks after leaving a bad relationship.
Kennedy’s heartfelt vocals, smartly accompanied by pianist Glenn Mehrbach, are matched in the dancers’ subtle range of expressions.
Taylor-Corbett’s 2008 “Code of Silence” is her finest work for Carolina Ballet. Set to searing minimalist music by Arvo Pärt, it depicts a group of men and women restricted and oppressed, their desperate attempts to break away continually thwarted by unseen forces.
The emotional impact is visceral, as Gabor Kapin and Margaret Severin-Hansen try to cling together but are constantly pulled apart. Taylor-Corbett sets up image after image of stark beauty for which the overused word “breathtaking” is the only proper description.
Company artistic director Robert Weiss contributes a new pas de deux to music by Alexander Glazunov that melds classical ballet style with a modern lyrical flow. Lilyan Vigo is a vision of loveliness, floating effortlessly in tandem with Richard Krusch, whose thrilling leaps and confident demeanor fully qualify him for star status.
The program opens with company dancer Zalman Raffael’s extremely appealing choreography for George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” His astute feel for the music’s changing rhythms and moods guides Cecilia Iliesiu and Jan Burkhard (as two aspects of the same woman) and Marcelo Martinez as their object of interest, in a swirling combination of precise steps and sassily languorous characterizations.
This program would be especially suitable for a ballet novice as it demonstrates the wide range of styles and subject matter that classical ballet can accommodate.