For its “Summer Series 2015,” BalletX presented an unforgettable performance driven by the sheer technical skill of the dancers and the uniquely artistic choreography by Resident Choreographer Adam Hougland.
Act One featured Hougland’s Risk of Flight, a dark and eerie piece about facing challenges in life. The piece premiered in 2007, but audiences were ecstatic to see it again with very few changes to the original repertoire. On the dimly-lit stage, the cast of 10 dancers face stage right, moving robotically and in slow unison. The technical aspect of the choreography looks graceful and strictly balletic at first glance, until sharp movements and floor work are thrown in to exemplify the diverse ability of the dancers. After an assortment of partner work displaying beautifully flexible limbs, the piece moves on to a mix of trios, duets and solos, each showing off the maturity of the dancers’ movement even more than the last.
Standout performances include a solo by Edgar Anido, a strong and powerful mover, and a breathtaking duet between Chloe Felesina and Richard Villaverde. Villaverde appears to be facing an internal battle, wildly shaking and fidgeting his body and arms, while Felesina attempts to calm him. The two move fluidly and flawlessly together, showing off their undeniable ballet technique and seasoned artistry. The ending of the act features each dancer paired up to perform a slew of eye-catching movements, including a quick leg change from arabesque penché to attitude penché in unison with the music that earned an audible gasp from the audience.
The next act was a zany 80s-inspired romp called Mashup, which first premiered in 2012 by Hougland. With all the sexual undertones and bizarre characters, the piece is unpredictable, mysterious and at times flat-out hilarious. The piece begins with all the dancers crammed together on a couch, their characters ranging from a pin-up girl and a virgin to a nerd and ladies man. The satirical dances that ensue feature hit 80s pop songs such as “Like A Virgin,” “Super Freak,” and “Whip It” by the parody band Big Daddy. Featuring a mashup of jazz, ballet, musical theater dance, and even some tap thrown in, all five dancers stay true to their characters and let their skilled technique shine through in the movement.
Memorable moments in the act include the talented Francesca Forcella, who absolutely owns her badass pin-up girl character. Forcella struts sexily around the stage to “Superfreak” while three men follow her around, falling all over her. She even brings out a whip and dances to “Whip It,” accentuating her toned legs and sexy and confident demeanor.
Daniel Mayo plays the token nerd, but somehow manages to flaunt his smooth technique despite simulated clumsiness and awkwardness. Mayo, Zachary Kapeluck and Richard Villaverde perform a comical trio that had the audience laughing out loud. Villaverde stands out with his long legs, high jumps and enticing presence on stage.
The third and final act of the summer series is the much-anticipated world premiere of Hougland’s When We’re Alone. Featuring a band of live music onstage with the dancers, the experience was synergetic, a celebration and collaboration of two different types of art.
Local singer-songwriter Chris Kasper inspired Hougland with his talented songwriting skills and folk-rock and blues sound. The two decided to collaborate and created a work that was just as much entertaining as it was inspiring. The melodies moved perfectly with the dancers’ bodies and it seemed as though the dancers thrived off the live set.
Dressed in a combination of pastel-colored and nude costumes, the ensemble of 10 dancers featured all five of the female dancers on pointe, showcasing intricate pointe work with a few surprise moments of release. Along with the upbeat rhythm playing in the background, the opening piece seemed to include more ballet technique than others and featured gorgeous partner work. With the combination of pastel colors, bright lighting, pointe work and cheery music, it all seemed very pretty, to put it simply.
Other notable moments in the act include an impressive solo performance by Daniel Mayo, an intimate and playful duet by Edgar Anido and Chloe Felesina, and standout technical performances by Gary Jeter II, Francesca Forcella and Caili Quan, among others.
Hougland has outdone himself with this creative and poetic collaboration, and the undeniable skill of the company’s dancers continues to shine throughout their work and blur the line between classical and contemporary dance. Missed the show? BalletX will be back this fall for their 2015-2016 10th Anniversary Season, including four series, seven world premieres and 10 pop-up performances you don’t want to miss. Keep track of what they’re up to here.