July 20, 2008

Company C Adds Appealing Variety to Dance Festival: Well-Trained Ensemble Makes Powerful Impact With Strong Technique

By Elaine Guregian, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Jul. 20--Speaking from the stage to the lawn audience at Goodyear Heights Metro Park on Friday night, Charles Anderson got a big laugh when he said his Company C Contemporary Ballet was glad to be here this particular weekend to perform at the second annual Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, since it also was Hamburger Festival time in Akron.

Coming from a group based in the not-so-carnivorous San Francisco Bay area, that's a compliment.

The 13-member group added a big, appealing dollop of variety to the free outdoor dance festival, which will continue with three Northeast Ohio groups over the next three weekends.

Anderson, a former New York City Ballet dancer, formed Company C in 2002. The current ensemble is young and beautifully trained, and among these consistently good performers were some who made a particular impact.

The festival is sponsored by the city of Akron, which used to sponsor the now-defunct Ohio Ballet's Summer Festival. The first piece danced by Company C looked like something that Heinz Poll might have created for his own group. Michael Smuin, who choreographed Starshadows, was close to Poll's age (Smuin died at age 68 in 2007). This gentle blending of ballet and modern styles, danced on pointe by three embracing couples to music of Maurice Ravel, was an attractive distant relative to Poll's Summer Night.

Kevin Delaney stood out in two dances, first in Twyla Tharp's whimsical Armenia, set to folk music by the Armenian composer Komitas. Delaney looked as strong as an Olympic contender in this demanding dancing. His partner, Jenna Maule, was lovely, with her ever-so-soft carriage of the arms and twisting waist. Her costume, by Stephanie Verrieres and Kimie Sako, began traditionally, with corset-like details in the back, but stopped suddenly at the waist with shorts, like the Old World and New World colliding. Armenia isn't folkloric dancing, but Tharp's smiling (thankfully, never slapstick) bow to it.

Delaney excelled again in the wrenching pas de deux titled Vespers, in which he tries to bring to life a doll-limp Gianna Davy, picking her up and carrying her every which way. Vespers is danced to a recording of Tom Waits singing Waltzing Matilda, and his gravelly voice added to the pathos of the scene.

The humanity of Waits and Vespers was especially touching coming after Patrick Corbin's edgy Partly Cloudy, in which two soloists (Beth Kaczmarek and Jenna Maule) and a couple (Alec Lytton and Kate Lieberth) danced to an irritating mash-up of musical styles resembling a radio changing signals. Lieberth (an Akron native and daughter of Deputy Mayor David Lieberth) showed both powerful technique and a strong stage presence in this contemporary piece.

In David Parsons' popular and fun The Envelope, dancers garbed in black and dark glasses tried and failed, comically, to thwart a rogue envelope. The dancers looked too cheerily all-American but nevertheless built to an exciting climax in Anderson's Bolero, in which Ravel's single, undulating motif grows over the course of the piece.

An hour before the main event, Christina Foisie of the University of Akron led UA Dance Institute students through a quick-moving series of demonstrations of warm-ups and performances in various dance styles, explaining as she went. Young children from the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the time they spent onstage with the student dancers. Similar events will be at 7:45 on the night of each dance festival show.

Elaine Guregian can be reached at 330-996-3574 or [email protected]


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