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Live Active Cultures

Cirque du Soleil and Orlando Ballet team up for A Choreographer’s Showcase; Seth find it mostly inspiring

As the Ballet's artistic director, Robert Hill, mentioned in his opening remarks (delivered alongside La Nouba's artistic director, Daniel Ross), this program was more of an experimental work in progress than a finished product. Nevertheless, Hill assured the audience that "considerable time and attention" was put into the evening by performers and choreographers from both companies, all of whom donated their time and talents. Indeed, the technical elements (bold lighting, powerful sound) were stunning, and several of the night's nine routines were inspiring in their blend of disciplines. "Prayer" (co-choreographed by Cirque's Yusuke Funaki and the Ballet's Chiaki Yasukawa) was a particular highlight, combining athletic movement with striking shadow puppetry. In "Runaway," Cirque's Ana Cuellar and Cheryl Ann Sanders stripped the surface of La Nouba's aforementioned Cleaning Lady character, revealing that you don't have to wear size zero to be a graceful dancer. And the audience ate up the show-closing "Swan Puddle," the Ballet's Anamarie McGinn's funny, self-mocking parody of their upcoming "Black Swan/White Swan."

I wish I could stop there, with a noble cause and appreciative attendees. But I'd be remiss not to mention the skill-level mismatch between these otherwise sympathetic organizations. Cirque's performers did an exceptional job emulating classical choreography, demonstrating the depth of their cross-training, but except for a few aerial stunts, they had little opportunity to share their unique skills. Conversely, Ballet members looked competent within their own idiom, but were awkward in ethnic or modern genres. Comic moments made clear that dancers are not clowns, while a couple of contemporary pieces felt uncomfortably like So You Think You Can Dance outtakes. If this partnership continues, I'd love to see Cirque elevate the Ballet, instead of simply dropping down to earth with them.

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