REVIEW: Ballet Spartanburg Merges the Arts in Exciting ‘#CollectiveWorks’

BY SANDY STAGGS
ARTS CRITIC

Ballet Spartanburg

Nichola Montt and Will Scott dance to the jazz vibes of Simone Mack-Orr with Gary McCraw on piano.

In the same vein of the company’s longtime “DanSynergy” series, Ballet Spartanburg returns to its collaborative roots in the woman-centric “#collectiveworks,”  a program of innovative contemporary dance that literally took a village to mount.

Artistic Director Carlos Agudelo has amassed a record number of artists from all disciplines: visual arts, paintings from The Johnson Collection, video, an orchestra, original music, a chorus, singers, and not to mention a vibrant array of choreography and techniques from this professional ballet troupe.

Opening the program is a spirited rendition of the anthem du jour “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” with choreography by Ashley Ratigan and vocals by the Spartanburg Sings All-County Middle School Honors Chorus.

“New Forms: A Tale of Apollo & Daphne”  features dancers  Daphne-Carrie Preus and Apollo-Brenton Taft and conceived by Agudelo and Hub Bub Artists in Residence Marissa Adesman and Ambrin Long, with an original score by the prolific Peter B. Kay, Spartanburg Philharmonic Resident Composer.

Veterans of the company Nichola Montt and now Guest Artist Will Scott exude advanced skill, technique, adult themes and star power in a program entitled “Love Is A Thing.”


Analay Saiz, Nichola Montt and Will Scott

Conveyed in three distinctly different movements – and set to the musical stylings of the folksy Americana duo Fayssoux Mclean and guitarist Brandon Turner, the jazzy vibes from Simone Mack-Orr and the chanteuse Robyn Hussa Farrell, both accompanied by Gary McCraw on the baby grand – Montt and Scott have impeccable chemistry and valiantly tell the story of the stages of their characters’ relationship ups and downs, break-up, make-up and all, danced with passion, sweeping lifts, embraces with their bodies connection in sultry unison. I have seen this much steam in ballet since “The Great Gatsby.”

The second act was inspired by three works in The Johnson Collection, all by Southern female painters.

“Still Life” by Adele Lemm is envisioned by choreographer Ilya Kosdayev as a frivolous, joyous occasion set to music by Mozart (“Allegro” from Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major) and Bach’s “Allegro” from Violin Concerto in A minor all played by the amazing 34-member youth ensemble, the Spartanburg High School Chamber  Orchestra. My alma mater! Go Vikings!

Spry and full of life, “Classically Baroque” is like a grand ball with a wonderful hybrid of traditional ballet and new movement, especially in the arms.  

Dancers include Charlie Carrouth, Grayson Driver, Dominique Guerra, Isaac Martinez, Carrie Preus, John Roche, Brenton Taft and Luke Umphlett (who all return for the final ballet!).

Ballet Master Lona Gomez created “Untitled” after a painting by Minnie Evans. From the East Asian/South American god images in the painting, Gomez appoints Montt as a fertility goddess that spatially and emotionally mingles within another couple, Scott and Analay Saiz in bold, fresh and haunting moves.

The playful “Easy Easel” explores the dynamics of being a tortured artist. Nelson Reyes stages four couples (four male dancers as the artists and four women as their models coyly nestled on life-size easels. The concept is brilliant and the dance is a play on the empty easel and space in “The Art Studio” painting by Theresa Pollack. Clever and breathtaking, this piece and the marvelous use of props (not to mention the costumes by Melissa Kimbrell) may have pushed the envelope the most for me in this exciting twist on the artist-model dynamic and the grueling depths of the artistic process.

Dominic Desalvio has crafted a pertinent and effective lighting design for these works.

Teresa Hough is Executive Director of Ballet Spartanburg.

“#collectiveworks” runs Friday-Saturday, March 22-23 at 7 p.m. at Chapman Cultural Center, 200 E. St. John Street in Spartanburg. For tickets, visit balletspartanburg.org or call (864) 542-2787.

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