Menlowe Ballet’s First Season Finale

29 Oct

Menlowe Ballet completed its first season October 5-7 at  San Mateo’s Bayside  Center for the Performing Arts. East of Highway 101,  it takes a knowledgeable driver to know where to turn off.  Carlos Carvajal is one such driver; we made the October 7 matinee,  featuring Betsy Erickson as guest choreographer, two works by artistic director Michael Lowe.  The company comprises seventeen members; Executive Director Lisa Shively and  Michael Lowe have been careful to arrange a program allowing sufficient time for the dancers also to appear in Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker.

Michael Lowe’s Serei was first on the program.  Set to John Williams’ music, the ballet was preceded by a brief Koto performance by Mariko Ishikawa, setting the tone for Mariko Takahashi’s aerial work on a scarlet scarf hanging vertically on center stage.  Movements wound both upward and down before classical vocabulary appeared, but Takahashi made space within the music for effective pauses.

She was joined by four other dancers; in the third section dancing with Maxim Lin-Yee, a tall, impressive  newcomer, his presence a bit like  Lee CunXin.

The ballet was supposed to deal with Takashashi’s reflections and the degree of fulfillment she experienced in each.  I didn’t feel this  was fully realized choreographically, though the dancing was excellent, the atmosphere absorbing.  Ayako Takahashi was credited with costuming, Ron Ho with the lighting design.

Betsy Erickson’s Songs to Richard Strauss was premiered in Oakland in 1990, five couples, six selections.  Mario Alonzo designed the costumes, differing hues for each couple: cream, grey, purple, red, lavender or light blue.  Patty Ann Farrell was the lighting designer.

Erickson is attracted to flowing movement; during her dancing career, she was distinctive in adagio. I remember in particular her dancing the adagio in Symphony in C.  She remarked  she is influenced by water and wave patterns,  evident in sweep of the port de bras, particularly when the women on pointe were supported  by their partners; at times the entire ensemble’s arms circled like a variation in T’ai Ch’i.

Menlowe Ballet’s finale was a local production of Surfside, originally created for Richmond Ballet, Virginia, 2002. Not quite an update on Todd Bolender’s Souvenirs or Bronislava Nijinska’s Le Train Bleu, it shared the insouciant qualities of the young, their energies on the make, set to the music of Sandy Nelson and The Ventures.  Paul Stinson and John Baker furnished a jazzy pre and postlude.

Utilizing Menlo Park Academy of Dance students, bright, eager, it left the audience convinced it wanted more.

Menlowe Ballet’s spring performances will be April 20-21, 2013 at the 492 seat Menlo -Atherton Performing Arts Center, ideal for the company’s current size.  Nicolai Kobanaiev is guest choreographer.

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