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Regional Dance America, Pacific Region's Ballet Festival

by Dean Speer

May 13, 2004 -- Tucson Convention Center, Tucson

Amid the sparkling blue fountains and water features of the Tucson Convention Center in beautiful downtown, ballet bunheads and future premier danseurs poured into the Music Hall Theatre to see a program of works by "Emerging Choreographers," associated with Regional Dance America companies. I might note that this show was at the ungodly hour of 8:00 am! So bravo first off to the many dancers and crew who braved the early morning sun to make their way to the stage and to the peer audience members who, like me, looked forward to seeing what this up and coming talent had to offer and what the fare would be.

You would not have known it was a crack-of-dawn performance. Each company's dancers were fully "on" and gave each of their pieces their full attention.

Of the companies represented -- Ballet Yuma, Mid-Columbia Ballet, Crockett-Deane Ballet, State Street Ballet Young Dancers, Orange County Regional Ballet, Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre, Whidbey Dance Theatre, Columbia Dance Ensemble, and Olympic Ballet Theatre -- I was particularly impressed by Chloe Felesina's work, "Calm," for Crockett-Deane Ballet and Spenser Theberge's piece, "One Good Flaw," for Columbia Dance Ensemble. Tatiana Cater gave us national and ethnic-flavor with her triptych, "Mardi Gras," for Olympic Ballet Theatre.

Felesina seems to understand form, function, and composition. Her white-costumed ballet began with a simple port de bras motif that built and was used as the catalyst for the extension of the piece. She also knows how to move people around well, using interesting patterns, layerings, and levels. While yet building her statement, she also surprised us and gave us fresh movement that also seemed logical, as if that was the only way a particular phrase could go. Felesina also gave us one of the better endings. It was clear she had thought about and planned how she wanted he work to conclude. As the great American Modern Dance pioneer Doris Humphrey wrote, "Donít leave the ending to the end!" While "Calm" was calm, it also had a tension and a visual edge to it that kept the viewers' interest.

Theberge, who also danced in his quartet, made us a "chair" piece, albeit with stools. He was inventive in his use of this prop, and I liked how he moved the dancers around and how they played against and with each other. A contemporary "isolationist" work, it was very well danced by his cast, Laura Brandfield, Julie Kern, and especially by the amazing and gifted Franco Nieto. A solo work for Mr. Nieto someday would be welcome, particularly if it's choreographically as strong and as sound as "One Good Flaw." Mr. Theberge is a high school junior and shows much promise and talent both as a dancer and budding dance-maker.

I was happy that Tatiana Cater tackled character dance as the premise for her "Mardi Gras" work. While we do teach and expect dancers here in the USA to learn and perform this kind of technique in ballets like "Nutcracker," etc., it's not too often a choreographer will choose to use this style for a ballet, so it was fun to see Cater's work. She made use of three types -- Ribbon (Chinese); Skirt; and Children, who gave us as kind of younger-crowd version of Irish Step Dancers. I liked how she brought the children on from behind the Skirt dancers, and even though we all knew intellectually they were there, it did have the effect of surprise and was rather charming. Cater took this further by having all three groups come together at the end for a strong, lively, and fun finish.

Again, "Bravos!" to each and every dancer and "emerging" choreographer for taking the courage to show us their "inner" artistic landscape and to glimpse a bit of the talent of the future -- and at the crack of dawn, in sunny Tucson!

Edited by Lori Ibay

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