Not Always about the Title Piece
Kansas City Ballet
The Kansas City Ballet opens its season with "Carmina Burana," a piece cemented in ideologies such as the changing seasons, triumphant and tragic love, and fate and fortune as the unyielding forces that move us all. The short ballets preceding the title work are "Mercury" and "End of Time." The company members are exquisite in technique and physical story-telling, and a few moments throughout the evening are truly stunning.
The opening short piece, "Mercury," choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett and costumed by Holly Hynes, at first glance, seems to represent the many changing seasons and temperaments of the Earth. Upon closer review, though, it becomes much more than that, moving through many different choreographic styles (abrupt and odd, light and airy, strong and romantic, and fun and quirky). It becomes unclear as to what aspect of life these dances are supposed to speak to -- all that's clear is that it does speak rather directly to many different ones. Some of the men had trouble dancing completely in sync, and the costumes were rather unimaginative, but ultimately, this piece was more enjoyable than not.
"End of Time," the second short ballet, was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable and valuable part of the whole evening. Choreographed by Ben Stevenson and staged by Li Anlin, this outrageously-beautiful piece danced by Angelina Sansone and Geoffrey Kropp was a show-stopper, with the pianist and cellist accompanying the dancers onstage. To believe that these two people were, indeed, the last two people on the Earth was to completely fall into the trap of never looking away from the stage while these two dancers were on it. The perfect repetitive nature of the choreography coupled with the portrayal by the dancers made for higher-than-normal expectations for "Carmina Burana."
"Carmina Burana" started off with what is one of the most famous songs in the world, "O Fortuna." And though the excellence in collaboration between the onstage presence of the chorus and the dancers was a high point, Toni Pimble's choreography just seemed too easy for these dancers. The pas de deux works, were, indeed, beautiful and well-danced, but the solo dances left something to be desired in terms of the difficulty of movement -- this is excluding the lovely roast swan piece danced by Jill Marlow. The harness holding her securely is not readily identifiable, so the trickery of the piece paired with the charm of the aerial choreography made it a superb viewing. The group numbers, for the most part, had peasant-court-yard natures to them, and the dancers danced them with proper timing and partnering. Sarah Tannehill Anderson proved especially valuable when it came time for the Court of Love section of poems; with a crystal-clear, heart-breaking tone and breath-taking stage presence, Tannehill Anderson delivers beautifully.
The set of works was really more of a commentary on and exhibition of the nature of things and the human experience the way it was observed back in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries A.D. That would seem unreachable and not-quite-graspable by audiences today, but the ideologies are not as far-removed as many humans tend to think. "Carmina Burana" performs through the 21st of October at the Kauffman Center, and if for no other reason, let the promise of the beauty of "End of Time" drag you there to see it.