American Legends, presented by State Street Ballet

At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, September

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


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