Reviewed by Steve Sucato
Charlotte Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Celebration program, delayed from 2020 because of the global pandemic, was worth the wait. The final production for outgoing artistic director Hope Muir (now artistic director at the National Ballet of Canada), the program cast a wide net in terms of audience tastes, with four topflight works that not only celebrated the company’s past, but also how far it has come artistically since its founding, by Canadian Robert Lindgren, in 1970.
The October 7-9 mixed bill at the Belk Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina, featured live music by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. The program opened with the world premiere of Charlotte Ballet interim artistic director Christopher Stuart’s Then, Now, Forever, set to music by Philip Glass. A contemporary ballet work for ten dancers, it was performed in front of a backdrop of stained-glass windows as in a Frank Lloyd Wright design. It began with a trio of male/female pas de deux couples in lavender costumes who faced the audience, with two couples bracketing them, facing and walking upstage. The couples then split off into various configurations throughout the ballet’s four sections, each a pleasing vision of Stuart’s well-crafted and sophisticated contemporary ballet choreography. Danced with airiness and feeling on both nights I attended (October 8 and 9), of note were dancers Emily Porter and Colby Foss (Oct. 8), whose command of Stuart’s elongated, turning movement and delicate partnered lifts was elegant.
Next, Crystal Pite’s 2010 A Picture of You Falling, a contemporary dance duet with original music by Owen Belton and text by Pite, set quite a different tone. On a mostly darkened stage, a semi-circle of tall amber theatre lamps on rolling stands created a pool of atmospheric light. Robert Sondergaard’s creative lighting design gave the viewer the impression of perhaps being inside the mind of the work’s female character as she relived a life-changing romantic breakup.