For the final performance of Orlando Ballet’s 2017-2018 season, Artistic Director Robert Hill decided to do something more experimental than the season’s previous offerings: three different styles of performance. Although they ranged from modern/experimental to classical, all were united by the common theme of love.
Some guest artists also lent their considerable talents to the show: New York based choreographer Jessica Lang, and local chanteuse Sisaundra Lewis.
From Foreign Lands and People
Minimalist piece From Foreign Lands and People was choreographed by Jessica Lang, and showcased a more contemporary style of dance. The costumes were simple, black/dark blue dresses for the women, sleeveless shirts and trousers for the men.
From Orlando Ballet’s Facebook Photos
Black wooden plinths were incorporated into the choreography, which created a more 3-D experience for the dancers and especially for the audience. As the dancers moved in between them, the plinths sometimes acted as obstacles, sometimes as gateways, platforms, or even signifed great heights, creating a visual metaphor for the complex shapes love creates between people. Plinths were lifted, slid, or tilted as needed.
So too did the dancers move in between each other, sometimes pairing off with one, sometimes another, echoing the reality of relationships as people move in and out of each others’ lives.
Mad Hatter’s Wonderland
The second piece of the night was choreographed and the music created by Arcadian Broad, OB’s Artist in Residence. It was an excerpt from a longer piece that will be performed in the 2018-2019 season, Mad Hatter’s Wonderland. It showcased the relationship between Alice (Kate-Lynn Robichaux) and the Mad Hatter, and included many familiar faces from Lewis Carroll’s stories as well as the recent live-action Disney films.
The White Rabbit (Nick Patterson) cavorted, there was some physical comedy involving the Hatter and an apparently indestructible letter, and of course several characters came and left the stage. All took place against the backdrop of the Hatter’s hat shop, a series of partitions which would be altered for use in later scenes. The costumes of course were spectacular; I was particularly enamored with the Red Queen’s dress.
I’m very curious to see how the whole Wonderland story is translated in the coming season, and what ending might be in store for the Hatter.
The last segment of the evening showcased the live singing talents of Sisaundra Lewis, who appeared on The Voice and worked for ten years as the voice behind Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba; and the choreography of Robert Hill.
Ms. Lewis sang a medley of love songs accompanied by her live band as the corps de ballet performed alongside. The music was chosen by Lewis and Hill, who wanted music that moved them both. According to the Orlando Sentinel, they chose well over 30 songs before winnowing down their list of covers to pieces with impact and appeal like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and Never Enough from the movie The Greatest Showman. (Something cute she said to the Sentinel: “I’m trying not to be so intrigued by the dancers that I forget my lyrics, but I am surrounded by beauty.”)
Costuming was very simple: the women wore white tie-back dresses, the men white satin pants and open white shirts.
As a simple, straightforward expression of love and affection, this segment was the most joyous; high energy moves were in abundance, and love in all its forms were on display, including a few same-sex pairings.
Songs included: Love Is, Killing Me Softly, Get Here, Hallelujah, and most interestingly, the Lord’s Prayer.
Overall, the performance took risks that definitely paid off. From audience comments around me people were delighted with the presentations and deeply moved by what they saw.
With such a brilliant creative team at Orlando Ballet willing to take such fascinating risks, it’s made me highly excited to see what happens next.