The Nutcracker Ballet is such an intrinsic part of Christmas that it would be difficult to imagine a world without the music, and without the well-known story performed through dance. The reason why the ballet is so magical is the cast of children who convey all of the new wonder of the season.
I am interrupting Late to the Theater’s horror month to bring you my review of Orlando Ballet’s Carmina Burana, and I will start with a confession: I did not pay close enough attention to the playbill to notice that there was no intermission, and I kept patiently waiting for it so that I could go powder my nose.
By dance number sixteen I thought: holy cow this is going to be a four-hour extravaganza! And by dance 25, I realized it was already the reprise of O Fortuna, and I’d watched the whole ballet. (And then I raced myself to the beautifully appointed Harriett’s Lady’s Lounge after the second or third curtain call…)
Clocking in at an hour-fifteen it is a spare yet intense ballet. We discussed the creation of it with Mr. Robert Hill, choreographer, in this piece a few weeks ago, and I’ll point you there for some background in the earworm-inspiring music and philosophy behind the choreography. On to the review.
This past week, we were given a second opportunity to interview Orlando Ballet director Robert Hill during a rehearsal for Dies, nox et omnia (Day, night, and everything), one of his dances for the upcoming Carmina Burana.
We sat in the relocated rehearsal space of Orlando Ballet (more about this exciting news below) and looked on as prima ballerina Kate-Lynn Robichaux learned her dance by 21st century means: watching her 2013-era self perform it on a video monitor. “I’m much more chill about this dance today than I was back then,” Robichaux said. “It’s probably because you just got married,” Mr. Hill responded, and Robichaux grinned as she raised her left hand to show off her ring.
Mr. Hill bounced between chatting with us and leaping up to help form the dance in front of us, explaining to the dancers that the theme of this piece was the male dancer’s exploration of his passion — his reaching within to find emotion, reaching back out to share it with the world. Robichaux performs the embodiment of his dream, allowing her body to be contorted and moved and carried in a complex series of lifts as she lives out the melancholy of male dancer’s imagination.
We pulled up the lyrics to this one while we watched, and Mr. Hill chuckled, explaining that some of the lyrics were impossible to interpret literally. But in this one, the male soloist sings themes that are timeless enough to still be top-40 fodder, and the dance seems to interpret the lyrics well: “Your fair face makes me weep a thousand times, but your heart is ice; to restore me, immediately would I return to life with one kiss.”
How to explain this ballet? Mr. Hill debuted it with Orlando Ballet in 2013, in collaboration with Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra conductor John Sinclair. They were looking for an interesting piece that could combine choral, orchestral, and dance elements to make a dynamic impact on audiences, and struck gold when they decided on Carmina Burana. The music, composed by Carl Orff in 1936, has a lot in common sound-wise with Igor Stravinsky, and is based on medieval yet surprisingly relevant poetry.
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.
Note: Normally, Late to the Theater’s resident Ballet Expert Achariya reviews performances. As she is on a well-earned family vacation, Jen attended the Saturday night performance of Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast and is writing up this review.
Saturday night, I ventured downtown to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in order to attend Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast.
Overall, the performance was an absolute delight and comes highly recommended. The choreography was playful and even cheeky while still doing honor to the balletic tradition, the costumes and sets were creative but still functional, and the story exciting and innovative while still recognizable to the audience as a well-known and loved fairy tale. I found myself wishing I’d known beforehand what an uplifting and charming evening I was in for so that I could spread the word to friends, family and coworkers looking for a more sophisticated kind of family night.
(Although Orlando Ballet originally presented this ballet in 2016, I am entirely unfamiliar with that performance and can only speak to the quality of this production and their previous piece, Romeo and Juliet. I will also assume the reader is already familiar with the Disney versions of Beauty and the Beast, from which the ballet is inspired.)