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Washington Ballet Studio Company

'Moon Dance Suite', 'Coppelia Variation', 'Just a song...', 'Coppelia Pas de Deux', 'Peter and the Wolf'

by Carmel Morgan

January 17, 2008 -- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millenium Stage, Washington, DC

The Washington Ballet Studio Company introduced their budding ballerinas to an audience of bundled-up arts patrons and tourists on Thursday, January 17, 2008, at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.   It was a snowy day, but the lively dancing warmed everyone.

The Studio Company is composed of dancers whose ages range from 17-22.  The company, which performs a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary pieces, is designed to be a bridge from student life to life as a company member, explained Jeff Edwards, the Associate Artistic Director of the Washington Ballet. 

The Millennium Stage was a perfect venue for the Studio Company.  As part of an initiative to make the arts accessible to everyone, the Millennium Stage presents free daily performances to many who are experiencing the arts for the first time.  The Studio Company dancers, who were joined by senior students from the Washington School of Ballet, were thus provided with an opportunity to reach a large audience, and the audience was treated to a complimentary performance by stars in the making.

One such future star may be Mako Nagasaki, who simply radiates with charm.  She was at times unsteady in her excerpts from Coppelia, perhaps due in part to an awkward pairing with Tyler Savoie.  While Nagasaki’s dancing did not come across as effortless as it should, her lovely lines and gorgeous smile surely mark her as one to watch.

Among the male dancers, there was no clear stand-out, although several showed promise.  In the all male piece, “Just a song . . . .,” choreographed by Carlos Valcarel to traditional Celtic mouth music, six young men in khaki shirts and pants traded leaps and turns like boastful hunting tales.  Unfortunately, most of the soloists fell short in this playful work about male prowess. 

“Moon/Dance Suite,” choreographed by Jared Nelson and Septime Webre, featured live piano music.  Five singers were also incorporated into the work, sharing the stage with the dancers and interacting with them to some degree.  The presence of the vocalists on stage, although original, proved distracting.  The songs were primarily about love, many of them in German.  The subject matter of romance seemed too mature for the youthful dancers, and this was reinforced by the presence of the older adults around them.  The sweet, shy grins of the dancers revealed a lack of emotional depth, as did the choreography, which included repeated episodes of leapfrogging, leading one to infer that the message of “Moon/Dance Suite” is that love is a game.

In contrast to “Moon/Dance Suite,” “Peter and the Wolf” is appropriately silly, and it suits the company’s youth.  Clearly a piece aimed at juveniles, “Peter and the Wolf” provides an excellent means of teaching children about both music and dance.  Five-year-olds would be enrapt with the whimsical costumes and animated narration.  The work, despite being predictable, is also reasonably entertaining for adults.  The Studio Company dancers, who were unable to successfully call upon their acting skills in “Moon/Dance Suite,” truly came to life as the colorful characters in the popular children’s folk tale.  In particular, the Bird, Giselle Alvarez, was enjoyable to watch.  She flitted about with all the vigor and gracefulness one would want to see in a bird. 

There are dancers in the Studio Company who have some bad habits to break – shoulders pulled up too high, chins jutted out too far – but some unmistakably have the talent to become box office favorites.  With more time spent in the studio and more public performances, these emergent artists will doubtless develop the technical expertise and creative nuances they are currently missing.    

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