By K.D. Norris
MOVEMEDIA 1, Feb. 11, at Grand Rapids Ballet’s Peter Martin Wege Theater
The titled theme of the Grand Rapids Ballet upcoming MOVEMEDIA: Diversity two-installment dance program was “differences make the world more beautiful”. So it seemed appropriate that the premier of three new dances, choreographed by three raising stars in the field, offered differences of interpretation and execution.
The program opened with Norbert De La Cruz III’s “The Return of Balance”, a frenetic yet, somehow, traditional offering which begins with a look back at traditional gender relationships and closes with a look toward a future without distinctions — the first highlighted by a male dancer being rebuffed as he seems to demand the attention of a female, who only accepts any advance when she invites; the second made clear when a male/female pas de deux (a dance duet) ends with the two separating and exiting the stage with dancers of their like gender.
After a break, Jennifer Archibald’s “Vapor” offered not only the most polished of the three works, in my novice opinion, but also the most aggressive and confrontational take on the theme of diversity. Archibald, in a short introductory video which included rehearsal footage, explained that she urged her dancers to fully and physically engage with their dance partners. That engagement made clear that diversity — in gender, in social hierarchy, in the limited racial spectrum the Ballet’s company could offer — is often not an easy task.
To close the program, Loughlan Prior’s “They/Them” made a stated point of costuming the dancers in a gender neutral if not gender-confused way. And, fittingly, his dance was highlighted in one way by the dancers moving forward and back over the stage’s usual backdrop, where some dancers joined the audience as spectators to the personal drama’s being played out on-stage. Inviting, accepting a world without gender, however laudable and desirable, is often a confusing to outsiders — and insiders.
Overall, from a presentation standpoint, the introductory videos by the each of the choreographers helped the audience to better understand where each offering was going as far as their artistic statements. And clearly the Ballet’s presentation of modern ballet — modern dance — by three rising stars in the dance world was welcomed by the near-sellout of a snowy Sunday matinee.
Overall, from the thematic standpoint of diversity — understanding and accepting diversity — a recurring theme from all three dances, maybe unintentionally recurring, was that the often the best connection was made between dancers when they simply, gently, touched their foreheads together.
May I have more please?
Grand Rapids Ballet upcoming second installment of the MOVEMEDIA: Diversity dance program will conclude March 23-25 at the Ballet’s Peter Martin Wege Theatre in Grand Rapids. Tickets are available.
The second MOVEMEDIA: Diversity will feature work by Olivier Wevers, Uri Sands and Danielle Rowe.
As part of the two-program MOVEMEDIA installment, Grand Rapids Ballet will partner with several local organizations in order to create “wrap-around” programming to help extend the messages to the public, according to supplied material. Those organizations include Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Be Nice, Arbor Circle, and Out on the Lakeshore.
Tickets for MOVEMEDIA: Diversity can be purchased at the Grand Rapids Ballet box office at 341 Ellsworth Avenue SW, online at grballet.com or Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 616-454-4771 x10.