American Legends, presented by State Street Ballet
At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, September 16.
Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko
The opening night of State Street Ballet’s new season was a triumph. The dancers delivered beautifully in a bold, varied, and dazzling extravaganza. The selections ranged from serious to humorous, from nostalgic to cutting-edge, yet all shared a joyous celebration of Americana.
Seeing as it is the most iconic American sport, “Baseball,” choreographed by Peter Pucci, opened the evening. Before the players entered and slid onto the diamond, the Adelfos Ensemble sang the national anthem. The all-male a capella rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” continued to resonate throughout the piece. Cheerleaders Tara Adams, Heather Hulsey, Kate Klein, and Danielle Favela were exuberant while ushering in the players/dancers. Delightfully set to the “Spring,” “Summer,” and “Fall” sections of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, “Baseball” was by turns humorous, athletic, and lyrical. Sergei Domrachev’s personality sparkled, imbuing the dance with a sense of play, and Ryan Camou’s soaring technique impressed.
The dancers shifted seamlessly into “Rush Hour,” which evoked a different mood. Choreographer Robert Battle developed this piece for State Street Ballet during this year’s Summerdance festival, and fully staged, it was compelling in its portrayal of chaos and discordance. Solos by Alyson Bryce Mattoon, Leila Drake, and Jennifer Rowe were amazing.
The company then resurrected Agnes de Mille’s “Texas Fourth,” which had been performed by her original dancers on the Lobero stage 33 years ago. Two of those original performers — Mel A. Tomlinson and Randy Jones — returned to participate in this staging. Jones, who is best known for his role as the cowboy in the Village People, led the crowd in a rousing sing-along of “YMCA,” before the ballet began. The dance itself evoked nostalgia for a time of innocence — of parties and parades, flirtations and festivities. To enhance the atmosphere, the company was joined by young dancers and Texas characters played by Patricia Gregory, Christopher Carroll, Ana Zaferris, and Linda Hedgepeth. There were moments of poignancy that provided emotional impact, particularly from dancer Jennifer Rowe, who was elegant and graceful in both the piece’s transitions and in its final image.
The most contemporary of the evening’s selections was Margo Sappington’s “Shed Your Skin,” which used a soundtrack by the Southern rock duo the Indigo Girls. The work was naked and sensuous in its emotional expression. The entire company was sinuous, undulating, explosive, and breathtaking. Although State Street’s season will now segue back to more traditional ballet, the risks taken in American Legends were delivered in leaps and bounds.