Those flexible wunderkinds are back for another season, and so far, so good.
About this year’s Studio One:
- Number of pieces: 2
- Total of running time: Maybe 1.5 hours, tops
- Range: Late 90s modern to late 2012 modern
- Who would like it: My So-Called Life fans
- Tickets: starting at $20, online and at the box office
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Richmond Ballet’s Artistic Director Stoner Winslett is clearly proud as hell of her company, which made its international debut in London this summer.1 She radiantly recounts all of their successes on the Thames as she opens this year’s Studio Series, but in the same breath, she insists that none of her dancers get to slack off, now that they’ve charmed the Brits. “Back to the barre,” she cries! “We have to get better every single day.”
Behind the curtain, I’m sure, several exhausted pairs of eyes roll good-naturedly. These young whippersnappers obviously work themselves to the bone, pausing only to pose for the cover of national magazines, that kind of thing. In an interview this past spring before Coppelia, I got some insight into the hectic schedule of a dancer, and even talking about it was so tiring that I didn’t have the heart to one-up them by mentioning how sometimes there is no parking on my block so I have to walk an extra 20 feet to get home at night.
But for real, Richmond Ballet-ers, you’re here to make me feel emotions with all your athleticism and artistry. No time for eye-rolling. You heard the woman! Back to the barre! Chop chop!
Richmond Ballet alumnus Philip Neal returned after over 20 years with the New York City Ballet to choreograph his first piece. Based on the avant-garde music of Lowell Liebermann, Neal’s Gargoyles is entertaining, stirring, and over far too soon. Three ladies bring various stone-creature elements into their joyful yet poignant performances: claws, wings, crouching…it’s all represented here and there. But as Neal puts it, “It’s not a cartoony ballet.” Their cavaliers are the solid stone that roots them. Holly Hynes, who Neal imported from NYC, made costumes in two weeks, and the grey leotards with vague claw imprints heighten the sense that these dancers are climbing over each other for the chance to break free from immobility.
Plus, gargoyles are cool.
This world premiere is easy to love, full of gracefulness and freedom yet also invoking a real sense of stony hardness. If you find your mind wandering, that’s OK. I’m a believer that the mind wanders to places in your own memory that the piece describes. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself, and see if you don’t find yourself in somewhat of a trance.
One of my top ten RB experiences, I’d even recommend paying the full ticket price for this one alone.
2. Streets and Legends
This, I was not expecting. Colin Connor’s Streets and Legends, another RB world premiere (though 15 years ago), is 90s-tastic from beginning to end. A patchwork quilt of traditional and contemporary Scottish music, the piece features dancers in various plaid getups that look like they were lifted directly from the shared closet of Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano.
Luckily, the 90s were the best decade ever, and these plaid hot-pant wearing dancers quickly move you past the dated feeling of it all and bring you where they want you: a standing ovation. Ten dancers alternate between energetic “You wanna mess with me? I’m Scottish, punk!” dancing and “Scotland sure has had a rough time out on the moors, what with all this clan warfare. Let’s get wistful, guys!”
Like me, you may be skeptical at first, as Lauren Elizabeth—who ends up completely stealing the show—bounds on stage looking like a very fit Kelly Bundy. But stick to it, as the experience will bloom into something totally radical. (I can’t remember what we said in the 90s. Cowabunga? Hasta la vista, baby?)
Studio One continues this Wednesday through Sunday, with tickets available online and at their box office (407 E. Canal Street).
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- With over 80 committed RB supporters in the audience!! Since I get to go to the opening night festivities with the elite crowd of donors, sometimes I forget that I am simply there to work and that I can’t actually follow the dancers around the world enthusiastically. So I am jealous as all get-out that these actual supporters got to see it all go down. ↩