While bearing the same title as 2012's Valentine's Day-themed performance, Ballet Quad Cities' 2013 Love Stories: Love on the Run - held on February 16 - offered several new short pieces along with "Newsflash," one of my favorites from last year's presentation. And Saturday night's entertainment delivered a mixture of sensuality, flirtatiousness, and exquisite beauty, culminating in a romantic experience that left me doe-eyed with emotions linked to love.
The evening's first offering was "Don't Play with Me," a playful, flirtatious piece choreographed by frequent BQC choreographer Deanna Carter, set to Bach's "Violin Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1041." It started with dancer Jill Schwartz walking out center stage and then standing for a few moments, as if she were waiting for someone, before she exited and the lights dimmed. This sequence was then repeated with dancer Calvin Rowe, and when the two finally joined together on a third go-around, the number was notable for the casual, lighthearted nature of the dancers' movements despite their adherence to precise choreography, especially when Schwartz and Rowe danced their way through children's games - chasing each other, pretending to be a bull and matador, and even playing rounds of "Rock, Paper, Scissors." As could be expected, the dance ended in a beautifully loving pose, but Carter also added a bit of a surprise at the very end, with the two playing one last round of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" that climaxed the pleasingly teasing spirit of the piece.
BQC's Margaret Huling and Jacob Lyon followed in the more balletically traditional "Don Quixote Pas de Deux," staged by Rebekah von Rathonyi to music by Leon Minkus. The strength of this piece lay in the strict concentration Huling and Lyon brought to their performed steps while also maintaining smooth movements and, for Lyon's part, seemingly effortless lifts. Huling also performed one of the evening's most stunningly graceful moments when she seemed to defy gravity en pointe, delicately skipping her way across the stage with her legs extended to the front, rather than the usual skipping technique of weight supported from directly beneath one's body. (I was also struck by Huling's wardrobe: a predominantly black tutu with rings of deep red material adorning the top, which gave the impression that Huling was wearing a rose around her waist.)
For the Act I finale, eight members of BQC's company were featured in the jaunty "Black Coffee," choreographed by Margaret Huling to a collage of songs. Each dancer was dressed in a combination of two colors - chosen from blue, yellow, pink, orange, and brown - with the women in sleeveless shirts and pedal-pushers and the men in T-shirts and slacks, which added to the '60s vibe of the dance movements. My personal favorite bit was like a song sung as a round but with dancing instead of singing, as a paired duo entered the stage and began a dance sequence, with another duo performing the same sequence a few measures later, and another after that, and another after that. Walker Martin, in particular, stood out for his full commitment to his movements, with his impressive, fluid extension and precision marked by true musicality and artistry.
Following intermission, Act II started with "Touché Par La Lune (Moonlight Sonata)," choreographed by Carter to Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# Minor," a piece that I would describe as possessing a sensuality absent of lust - one more pure, or virginal, in nature. Adorned in light-blue clothing, with the women wearing skirts that seemed to float on air with the slightest movement, the number brought to mind a scene of winter fairies dancing in a forest clearing, as if taking part in a respectful celebration of their existence. And yet there was also a touch of chaos as nine dancers filled the stage in sometimes-synchronized couples and trios, though that chaos wasn't one of confusion or lack of control; it came merely from so much variance in action. The scene also included a beautiful segment in which one couple danced in the foreground while another couple mirrored their movements behind them, but rarely at the same moment. Instead, the couple in the background would mimic the couple in the spotlight at a different pace, or a different place in the musical phrasing.
Choreographer Courtney Lyon's "Promise of Living," set to Aaron Copland's choral composition of the same title, followed. Through the combination of the song's Americana nature and the earthy brown-and-white clothing worn by the piece's seven dancers, I experienced the sequence as an ethereal, early-Midwestern-pioneers sort of harvest celebration, with the deep respect carried in the dancers' movements matching the lofty, hymn-like essence of the choral track.
Love on the Run ended with Carter's jazzy "Newsflash," which exuded the feel of a smoky '60s nightclub and sort of combined the tones of Guys & Dolls' "Havana" scene and Sweet Charity's "Rich Man's Frug" (minus the Bob Fosse movements). Performing to CD accompaniment that featured voice-overs about newspapers mixed with advertising jingles, company members grabbed newspapers from each other while occasionally flirting with some dancers and inciting jealousy in others. And the scene ended this Love Stories' evening of varied passions on a high, playful note, leaving me in good spirits, happy with the hour-and-three-quarters of entertainment, and already longing for Ballet Quad Cities' next performance.
For more information on Ballet Quad Cities' current season, call (309)786-3779 or visit BalletQuadCities.com.