Unmatched. Enthralling. Sublime. There are simply are not enough sterling adjectives to fully describe the Indianapolis City Ballet’s 6th annual “Evening with the Stars,” held for the first time at Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University Saturday.
There is no question that the gala, for which some of the finest dancers from many of the world’s most renowned ballet companies convene in Indianapolis each year to demonstrate their virtuosity, has become one of, if not the area’s premiere performing arts event. Unless one had endless resources, it would be impossible to travel the world to see all of the dancers performing the works featured. And with the change of the venue from the Murat to Clowes, the scope of the event was enhanced in a way that matched its grandness.
There were so many superb performances executed by the ballet superstars who participated in the gala that it is difficult to single them out, but this writer had some favorites.
Act One included a pas de deux featuring American Ballet principal Paloma Herrera and New York City Ballet principal Gonzalo Garcia in an excerpt from “Raymonda.” Making it special was the fact that Herrera, who is soon retiring, was dancing for the final time in the Midwest. Another was soloists Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood from The Royal Ballet dancing to music by Benjamin Britten in the funereal “Aeternum,” by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Ending the first act with dynamic flourish was an electrifying piece called “Stone and Steel,” which explores vulnerability. Dancing to choreography set by Myles Thatcher were 10 dancers, a group of emerging artists ages 15-19 from all over the world, who are enrolled in The San Francisco School Training Program.
Act Two was replete with performances that moved the nearly full house crowd to often erupt in cheers and sustained applause, and, in some cases, standing ovations by pockets of individuals in the audience. “Sinatra Suite,” an elegant and sensual piece choreographed by Indiana native Twyla Tharp featured ABT’s Luciana Paris and ABT principal Marcelo Gomes dancing to a medley of songs by Ol’ Blue Eyes. Stunning in their powerful athleticism and execution of gravity defying jumps, leaps, midair turns and arabesques were the back to back performances of Haruo Niyama in “La Bayadere Variation, 2nd Act” and New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht in “Piazzolla Tango,” with choreography by Servy Gallardo and music by Astor Piazzolla. As far as perfection is concerned, there was no better example than that the dancing of San Francisco Ballet principal Maria Kotchetkova and ABT principal Herman Cornejo in a spectacular duet from “Don Quixote Pas De Deux.”
An effective addition to this year’s gala were well produced and informative videos of choreographers and dancers which served as introductions to some of the performances. They were created by Terry Lingner of the Lingner Group, Conrad Picarello, of Innovative, editor Jenna James and Chris Lingner, dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet.
New York actor Chris Stack, as he has for several past galas, served as master of ceremonies this year. Charming and affable, Stack suitably handled his duties as usual but was hampered by a script weighed down with forced humor that fell short. With the addition of video introductions, it might help hasten the pace of future galas if the live commentary was streamlined.
A truly world class event, those primarily responsible for its success were its lead sponsors, the Fortune family, co-founders Bob Hesse and Jane Fortune, chair and co-chair, respectively, of the ICB board; Kevin Hesse, executive director and producer; and Jolinda Menendez, director. It’s because of their combined passion and vision that Indianapolis City Ballet and “Evening with the Stars” has the potential to finally define Indianapolis as a true cultural destination.
For more information about Indianapolis City Ballet visit indianapoliscityballet.org
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