We have a double-dose of lengthy reviews for Ballet Austin’s 10th Season opener, “Carmina Burana & Kai,” from two incredible A-Team Reporters and Alliance Members, Preston and Ronda Dale Kirk.
BA’s 10th season opening is magnificent. I typically prefer traditional ballet, but this particular contemporary chorography is amazing. A minimalist stage (and costuming) emphasize the dancers’ athleticism. I couldn’t take my eyes off their unbelievable twists, turns, leaps and body movements.
Onstage with the dancers are 110 members of Austin’s own Grammy-nominated choir, Conspirare, a 45-member children’s chorus and – in the orchestra pit — 57 members of the Austin Symphony. That combo alone is worth the ticket price.
Two very diff. pieces were performed Fri. eve.: “Kai,” which is based on images of oceans and waves, as well as a mysterious couple.
The choirs sing Carl Orff’s 1935 masterpiece based on earthy, bawdy poems and songs preserved since the 13th C. The dramatic music is perfect for Stephen Mills’ abstract choreography. One regret, no translation for the German songs. A program note about the essence of the lyrics or a title would’ve helped. I highly recommend this outstanding “marriage” of dance, voice and musicianship.
Ronda Dale Kirk
Spicewood (Austin) TX, USA
Spectacular Blend of Local Arts
The bad news first: ONLY two performances left! Now the good news: Prepare for a triumphant collision of breathtaking dancing/choreography, awesome vocal talent and tremendous musicianship from the Austin Ballet, Austin choir Conspirare and the Austin Symphony Orchestra, respectively. This, along with a children’s choir, is an amazingly successful blend of truly inspired, local artistic groups.
Credit for both ballets, “Kai” based on the strikingly strange but engaging music of John Cage, and Carl Orff’s noted choral work, “Carmina Burana,” goes to BA’s artistic dir. Stephen Mills. The shorter work wonderfully reflects the ebb and flow, the crashing waves, and perhaps even the undertow of unpredictable seas. But “CB,” based on 700-year-old lampoons of the church, is a jaw-dropping spectacle. The scant framework of a set “floating: above the stage casts unusual shadows on the dancers and the stage. Its movement, plus a modular “jail” of high-back black chairs and dramatic lighting changes, only enhances the dance and the dancers.
Orff’s selections from the medieval musical material were risqué stories of misfortune, deadly sins and drinking. But, unless you speak fluent German, you can’t discern that from the program, from this 101-voice choir’s magnificent singing or even the heartfelt solos. However, your eyes will tell you more even if Mills contends that his ballet does not necessarily reflect the musical messages.
Just look at those graceful, spinning bodies and their complex moves, both individually and in “units.” It is sensuous dance. It is exciting, thrilling movement. It is dangerously complex interplay made to look as fluid as drops of mercury bouncing off a tile floor. For me, this ballet work is neither bawdy nor sexy per se. But try to tell that to the couple that was necking in front of me on the Mezzanine level.
Spicewood (Austin), TX, USA