Neos Dance Theatre

Photo Courtesy of Neos Dance Theatre

Cain Park – Evans Amphitheater
Cleveland, Ohio
July 22, 2010

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

NASA uses the acronym NEOs which stands for Near-Earth Objects such as comets and asteroids drawn in by the planet’s gravitational pull. In the case of another “Neos”, Mansfield, Ohio-based Neos Dance Theatre, other forces were at work at Can Park’s Evans Amphitheater drawing audience members into orbit with the company through a mix of highly accessible contemporary and neo-classical ballet works performed beautifully by  the troupe’s capable dancers.

Relative newcomers on the Northeast, Ohio dance scene, Neos’ star is on the rise and its program featuring ballets by company artistic director and principal dancer Bobby Wesner and the late Heinz Poll appeared tailor-made for the burgeoning company.

Neos’ program began however on a more classical note with the Grand Pas de deux from Marius Petipa’s Don Quixote.

Dancers Wesner and Jennifer Safonovs turned in steady, reserved performances of the pas which lacked the expected Spanish flair associated with the ballet, but the pair brought their own unique flair to it. The lovely Ms. Safonovs shone the brightest of the pair with poised control over her elongated arabesques and turns in attitude, as well as an aggressive attack of her pirouettes. Mr. Wesner proved an adequate partner to her and overall the pair performed the Grand pas satisfactorily.

The Grand pas was followed by the first of Mr. Wesner’s two ballets on the program, the Latin-influenced Nuevo set to music by several Latin singers including Chavela Vargas and Julieta Venegas. The ballet for six dancers bore superficial appearances to a Nacho Duato work with work’s women in long earthy colored dresses the men in long pants. Here Wesner gave one a sense of folkloric Spain but unlike Duato’s ballets, Wesner’s choreography was less grounded. The choreography moved with ease but tended to repeat movement phrases to detrimental effect. Of note was a lulling solo by Wesner in which he played off the ethnic music swiveling his hips and modulating his momentum as he folded and unfolded his arms.

The program then peaked with Poll’s masterpiece Summer Night (1974). The utter gem set to Chopin’s Concerto #1 in E minor held the audience breathless with its ethereal beauty and grace. The ballet for two couples was awash in delicate turns en pointe that hung in the air and lifts that arced female dancers high above their male partner’s heads and back to the floor. Poll’s exquisitely light and airy choreography felt Tudor-esque and was performed adroitly by Neos’ dancers.

Less enthralling was the preview of Wesner’s new ballet Cities of the Future that followed. Like some dated vision of the future hatched long ago, Wesner’s ballet with electronic score to match came off drab and somewhat academic and not up to the same standard as the other works on the program that preceded it.

The program closed on a high note however with Poll’s Eight By Benny Goodman (1993).

Six dancers in ball gowns and tuxedos waltzed and swayed to Goodman’s song “Let’s Dance” in a delightful homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age. Poll’s choreography for the ballroom dance-themed ballet lilted and swept across the stage with style and grace. Unlike choreographer Twyla Tharp’s 1982 ballroom dance inspired Nine Sinatra Songs which has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity the past few years and features somewhat dysfunctional relationships between its characters, Poll’s characters had the air of a carefree Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Highlighting the entertaining ballet was a fragile and melancholy solo danced Brooke Wesner to Goodman’s “How long has this been going on” and a tongue-in-cheek trio to “My Old Flame” danced by Safonovs, Brooke Wesner and Juliana Freude in which the impeccably dressed and coiffed trio primped and mugged like spoiled starlets.

Copyright Steve Sucato

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