BalletMet Columbus – 7 Deadly Sins

BalletMet dancers: Courtney Muscroft and Andrew Brader. Photo by Will Shively
BalletMet dancers: Courtney Muscroft and Andrew Brader with Shadowbox Live musicians (L to R) Stev Guyer and Matthew Hahn. Photo by Will Shively

Riffe Center – Capitol Theatre

Columbus, Ohio

May 6, 2011

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

There are many interpretations of what constitutes sin, from a transgression of divine law to merely an action viewed by others as reprehensible. In BalletMet Columbus’ new and original production 7 Deadly Sins, the company in collaboration with Columbus music and theater troupe Shadowbox Live, explored the notion of sin using a framework based on the modern concept of the seven deadly sins derived from the 4th century writings of monk Evagrius Ponticu.

The program featured seven dance vignettes by six choreographers separated by Shadowbox Live performances of classic rock tunes and brief skits such as a TV evangelist begging forgiveness for his digressions.

Set to music by the talented Shadowbox Live, the program opened with Ma Cong’s Latin-infused jazz ballet “Pride”. Four couples moved through a variety of lively well-crafted dance phrases and partnered lifts and turns. Cong’s festive interpretation of the sin of pride however, didn’t so much relate an image of pride as a sin as much as it imparted a sense that the eight dancers crisp performance of the ballet was something they could definitely take pride in.

In “Sloth” choreographer James Kudelka took a more literal approach to that sin’s meaning but twisted it to perhaps show how the debilitating effects of depression could be mistaken for sloth.

Dancer Annie Mallonee costumed in a red dress did a marvelous job portraying a woman burdened by a feeling of heaviness. Lying on table representing a bed, Mallonee’s listless limbs and body were lifted, moved and manipulated in creative ways by four fellow dancers giving the impression that she was not in control of body. Kudelka’s choreography brilliantly created empathy for Mallonee’s character whose inner demons were the cause of her laziness. “Sloth” was the first of a few vignettes in the program that put forth the idea that sin is in the eye of the beholder.

After choreographer Gina Patterson’s understated “Lust”, in which characters in a church-like setting appeared to be stricken more with cases of desire followed by guilt chasers than overt lustful feelings for another, the program’s first half closed with Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “Wrath” which was anything but understated.

In “Wrath”, Moultrie created a torrent of over-the-top rage expressed in several aggressive pas de deux’s and through actions of individual dancers who flailed themselves and shrieked at the top of their lungs. The forced screams at times came off as almost comical in their overuse. Moultrie’s fast-paced take-no-prisoners choreography impressed, but his use of screaming would have been better served if less frequent and tempered by moments of silence.

BalletMet principal dancer/choreographer Jimmy Orrante’s “Greed” opened the program’s second half with a more literal interpretation of the sin using wooden boxes and platforms as the objects of greedy desire for seven characters. In the work the characters individual greediness gave way to the greed of the group they formed adding members as the work progressed. In the end though, one of the characters reverted to his own greediness by refusing to share a coveted box with the others and then claimed all their boxes for his own. While Orrante’s simplistic approach to the subject proved effective, his choreography for the ballet was somewhat predictable and lacked spark.

Like Kudelka’s “Sloth”, choreographer Amy Seiwert’s “Envy” rose to heights the other choreographers vignettes failed to.

Two female dancers faced-off center stage to open the ballet before one broke off into a pas de deux with a male dancer and the other joined what looked to be a family unit seated at dinner table. While differing interpretations of who might be envious of whom and for what reason could be advanced, the ballet’s brilliance came not so much in its interpretation of the sin of envy, as it did in Seiwert’s masterfully sleek and sophisticated choreography for the ballet. The emotional choreography was executed marvelously by the ballet’s five dancers and especially in the performance of dancer Courtney Muscroft.

The program went out with a bang in Kudelka’s “Gluttony”, a fun, sexy, riotous food orgy that spilled across the stage with Sodom and Gomorrah-like grandeur.

Despite its few missteps on the whole BalletMet’s 7 Deadly Sins was one “sin-sational” production.

Copyright Steve Sucato

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