Carolina Ballet’s current program should be called “The Joy of Dancing,” because that’s what it projects with irresistible impact. And during a time of national tragedy, the all-American subjects and music give welcome comfort and uplift.
Carolina Ballet has staged “Fancy Free” and “Carolina Jamboree” before but never together. This logical pairing is a perfect introduction for anyone who thinks ballet consists only of swans and tutus.
Jerome Robbins’ 1944 “Fancy Free” follows the amorous adventures of three sailors on leave in New York City, set to Leonard Bernstein’s catchy score (later turned into the musical and film, “On the Town”). Highly theatrical and full of clever humor, the piece layers the flirtation and competition with Broadway pizzazz, slyly disguising the difficult ballet steps and combinations.
On Thursday, puckish Pablo Javier Perez, happy-go-lucky Marcelo Martinez and debonair Gabor Kapin vied for the attentions of worldly Alicia Fabry, charming Lilyan Vigo and calculating Randi Osetek. Despite spotty lighting and some rushing of comic details, the performance was warmly ingratiating.
Lynne Taylor-Corbett has created many fine pieces for the company but none more inventive and audience pleasing than “Carolina Jamboree.” Inspired by the music of the Triangle-based band Red Clay Ramblers, the three-part work exudes homespun sensibilities. The band’s live participation adds toe-tapping verve and soulful vocals.
In “Appalachia Stories,” the hardscrabble life of mountain folk, movingly represented by eight couples in repetitive sequences, is contrasted by a radiant couple (Lilyan Vigo and Richard Krusch) and their energetic wedding festivities. A gripping secondary story involves a mentally unstable wife (Cecilia Iliesiu) and her long-suffering husband (Timour Bourtasenkov, in his final role before retiring), who falls for another woman (Lara O’Brien).
“The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey,” narrated by Bland Simpson, offers two viewpoints of a couple’s final tryst (Margaret Severin-Hansen and Gabor Kapin). The story’s specifics make it more drama and less dance but the dancers prove fine actors.
The final section, “Fiddlesticks,” features a sizzling Jan Burkhard vamping with two smitten males, a bouncy Nikolai Smirnov in the hilarious “Chicken Song,” and a spatting couple’s battle between the sheets (Randi Osetek and Adam Schiffer). The finale has the entire company in a hoedown that builds to an exhilarating frenzy, sending the audience out beaming and breathless.