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The Washington Ballet

On Their Way Up

'The Four Temperaments,' 'Sonatine,' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

by Dani

January 24, 2004 -- The Kennedy Center, Washington

I am liking The Washington Ballet more and more. Their latest production offers something edgy, something soft and something just plain fun. Artistic Director Septime Webre bounds on stage before the performance to tell a little about the night's programme and invite the audience to stay afterwards for 'Ballet Talks.' He is just such an enthusiastic man you cannot help but be caught up in his excitement about what he and the company are about to bring to you.

My favorite of the evening would have to be "The Four Temperaments." In particular, "First Variation: Melancholic." I admit I have a soft spot for Jason Hartley. I've not yet seen another male dancer who has such an earthy style. I keep thinking back to his "Nocturne Monologue" (performed last year). He has a sort of raw, elemental way of expressing himself, his emotions, and movement and all with an understated machismo. "Nocturne" seemed to exploit all of that to the nth degree. In "First Variation," again there is this intensity coming from him that you can feel all the way out in the audience. It's hard to keep yours eyes off of him. As he is only 26, so there is indeed a lot to look forward to from him, including choreography. He in fact has a piece in the company's upcoming "7x7" programme.

Speaking of choreography, one of the reasons I loved this particular "Variation" was the strength of the ballerinas. I just love when Faure, Griffin, Polito and Turshen come in with that high-kick step looking like Amazon Women there to lay claim. The relationships are marvelous, the tangled bodies and the give and take between the dancers, just delicious. Really, I find "The Four Temperaments" an immensely pleasurable, satisfying and yet edgy experience. I love the simple, minimalist feel to it, the bit of quirkiness, the structure and the discipline.

" Sonatine" was danced by Michele Jimenez and Luis Torres at this performance. It was lovely and romantic and if Fred and Ginger ever did a more balletic piece, this might have been their number. I really do love Michele. She looks so delicate but she is very strong and oh so beautiful in face and form. And Torres did indeed have a leading man look in both this and "Midsummer." I thought they paired nicely.

" A Midsummer Night's Dream'"- what's not to love? The company performed it with great humor, a true sense of fun and much high spirit, which is the way this work is meant to be, whether in one act or in its entirety. Again, my hat tipped to Jimenez and Torres as Titania and her Cavalier. I actually loved their pdds here more than in "Sonatine." Jason Hartley as Puck was an absolute delight, but as I've already gone on about him, I'll mention my other standout and that is Jonathan Jordan as Oberon. He was fabulous, incredible dancing, commanding every time on stage and the guy has muscles on top of muscles on those legs.

The Washington School of Ballet has been noted for its wonderful program for nurturing and developing young dancers and the proof is in all the fairies and butterflies who were terrific and really added zest and magic to the production.

There was a Ballet Talk after the performance and Septime, along with Brianne Bland, Michele Jimenez, and Erin Mahoney came out to answer questions. I asked Septime how, out of all the works of Balanchine, he came to choose those three. He said "The Four Temperaments" is one of his absolute favorite ballets ever, and in fact, if he were only allowed to do five ballets for the rest of his career, this would be one of them. "Midsummer" is a ballet he has wanted to do since coming to Washington, and he would have loved to have done the entire ballet but apparently the second act requires far more dancers than are currently in the company. He hopes they grow and grow and can someday do it in its entirety. "Sonatine" he chose because it is a nice fit between the two other more bombastic pieces, a soft, sweet, romantic work.

The Washington Ballet is on the move up...and up. Bravo to them.

Edited by Holly Messitt

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