Carolina Ballet’s current program features a work based on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” commemorating the Bard’s death 400 years ago. But with four additional pieces, the program is also a dazzling tribute to the company’s ongoing strengths.
Artistic director Robert Weiss premiered his half-hour “Tempest Fantasy” in 2006, set to Paul Moravec’s Pulitzer Prize-winning score. In its second revival, the ballet proves its durability, especially with Thursday’s opening night cast.
Marcelo Martinez’s superb athleticism made Caliban’s half-wild prowling convincing, as well as his pitiable expressions of love for Ashley Hathaway’s Miranda. Her feisty rejection of Caliban is one of the piece’s highlights. Hathaway also projected endearing responses to Yevgeny Shlapko’s princely Ferdinand, their love-at-first-sight pas de deux warmly romantic. Richard Krusch’s commanding Prospero vividly expressed anger at Caliban with rapidly beating legs in mid-air. Ariel is intriguingly portrayed by two dancers, sometimes in tandem, sometimes separate. Margaret Severin-Hansen and Nikolai Smirnov were electrifying in their energetic spins and leaps.
David Heuvel’s lovely costumes and Ross Kolman’s multi-hued lighting add sparkle to the proceedings. Despite too many other characters and too much attempt at plot, the piece makes an engaging story ballet.
Resident choreographer Zalman Raffael created his latest work, “Variations on a Theme,” to familiar music of Rachmaninoff (“Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”). His previous works have purposely tweaked classical forms but here he’s firmly within tradition, yet making the movements seem new. His sensitivity to mood and rhythm sweeps the piece along with wonderful variety.
Thursday’s performance included striking work from lead couples Randi Osetek and Adam Crawford Chavis, Lilyan Vigo and Richard Krusch, and Lindsay Purrington and Yevgeny Shlapko, all confidently displaying both spirited and lyrical sides. The prolonged applause signaled the ballet is a keeper.
Three brief works demonstrated ballet’s expressive range. Weiss’ “Adagio,” to Albinoni’s music, paired Margaret Severin-Hansen and Pablo Javier Perez in a stark pas de deux of longing and regret, clinging to each other as if for the last time. Weiss’ other pas de deux matched up Marcelo Martinez and Lara O’Brien in “Meditation from Thaïs” (music by Massenet) in a passionate display of sensuality.
George Balanchine’s 1953 bon-bon, “Valse Fantaisie” buoyed by Glinka’s whirling music, teamed Sokvannara Sar and Jan Burkhard; he valiantly attempting to disguise the punishing difficulty of the constant jumps, she successfully seeming never to touch the ground.
What: “Tempest Fantasy” presented by Carolina Ballet
Where: Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. Mar. 4-5, 12, 19; 2 p.m. Mar. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20
Info: 919-719-0900 or carolinaballet.com