Menlowe Ballet Makes Its Debut November 5

17 Nov

With its two performance debut November 5, Menlowe Ballet is off to an
encouraging start, enjoying former Oakland Ballet dancers and choreographers in the evening’s  audience.

The company has a singular advantage for its future: a school closely connected to the performing ensemble; this provides a key element in a company’s growth and stability.  The other key is the choreographic force guiding the artistic vision. With Michael Lowe, the fledgling ensemble demonstrated definite promise.

The program comprised two ballets previously choreographed by Lowe, two brief pas de deux by guests Nikki and Ethan White, and Cirque, Lowe’s new work which adroitly combined professionals and children in well-balanced doses.

Chuntian (In the Spring) seemed a reworking of  his Award-winning Bamboo. themes, using nature images as a springboard for the choreography. With Chinese-accented music by Liu Xing and Wang Dong, it reminds one a great strength is utilizing what one knows.  Lowe’s Asian background provides just the right touch for tadpoles, lotus, and crickets.  For the evening performance guest artists Akira Takahashi and Amy Briones of Ballet San Jose chirped with skill.

The two pas de deux “Halleluja” and “Over The Rainbow” demonstrated the
Nikki and Ethan White skills in partnering and rapport.  “Halleluja” bore
little relation to the lyrics, but its  performance for Paula Abdul’s television show garnered third place.  “Over The Rainbow” evoked nostalgia but the partnering feats revealed the effort.

“Plague”, Lowe’s creation for Moving Arts Dance in 2006, reflected that company’s emphasis on “significant” work, featuring Damon Mahoney as the fateful figure, and utilizing music from six composers: Guillaume de Machaut, Arvo Park, John Dowland, Harry Partch, Christopher Tye and John Cage.  Decimation and Death enjoyed full play and eleven dancers threw themselves into the maw of Mahoney as grim reaper.

“Cirque” as program finale enforced Lowe’s deftness with story telling, this time to  seven composers: Gavin Bryars, Gioacchino Rossini, Scott Killiam, Benajmin Britten, Rolft Kent, Dmitri Shostakovich, Jacques Offenbach. Each selection was
employed adroitly. Also acknowledged were ballets by John McFall and Lew Christensen in which Lowe danced.

Whether “Cirque” can travel using devoid of Silly Sailors and Saucy Swashbucklers or Flying Tigers is moot.  Seeing young students cleverly integrated in a largely adult assignment  is delightful, standard and an astute eye to the future.  Lively, well disciplined, they attacked their assignments with infectious spirit.  Their support to Ikolo Griffin as Ringmaster was for smile making, particularly when Griffin  partnered Mariko Takahashi in a Bohemian Rose Adagio.  With eyelids glittering and Danse Arabe costume prancing, Takahashi was supported a fish dive or two or settled herself on Griffin’s shoulders.

For Maria LaMance as the Strongwoman  Lowe provided several instances to display disdain personified.  At the end of the demonstration her small assistants carted the heavy barbell off stage with utter nonchalance.

Griffin supervised an Exotic Bird Bath before sharing A Tight Rope proving fatal to a young tight rope walker. Lowe’s invention registered the necessary gasp and sorrow; typical to his narrative talent he told the story without undue emphasis.

It was good to see Griffin in a role displaying his line, jump and turns.  Let’s
trust to Lowe’s ability to challenge Griffin further.

Menlowe Ballet moves to Mountain View’s Center for the Performing Arts in
mid-March 2012.

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