Review: Indianapolis City Ballet's 'Evening with the Stars'

September 9, 2012
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As has now become the tradition, I’ve woken up the second Sunday of September with a dance hangover.

That’s because, last night, Indianapolis City Ballet staged its annual “Evening with the Stars” benefit, bringing a who’s who of top dancers from around the world to the Murat Theatre. 

The moments of greatness? Yes, I could tell you those, but that would pretty much mean reprinting the entire program.

Some highlights among the highlights then?

Well, there was “Liturgy,” from choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (whose “After the Rain” was a knockout at last year’s event) This time, he began with the energy of his dancers (Wendy Whalen and Craig Hall of the New York City Ballet) entirely focused on their arms and hands. The feet, in fact, seemed almost secondary throughout, as Whalen and Hall’s wrapped bodies—separated more often in the piece’s mid-section but reunited at the end—play out an abstract interconnectedness both strong and vulnerable.

There was Herman Cornejo of the American Ballet Theatre, partnering with his hat in the stylistic “Tango Y Yo.” There was Brooklyn Mack of the Washington Ballet tearing into a pair of solos, including the self-choreographed “Lost in Time,” with a regal intensity only matched by the intensity of his bows. And the Royal Ballet’s Aaron Smyth reprising a highlight from last year, the Nina Simone-fueled “Feeling Good.”

But those weren’t the half of it. ABT’s Alexandre Hammoudi and student Veronkia Verterich danced the U.S. premiere of Demis Volpi’s “Little Monsters,” showing that new choreographic life can still be breathed into familiar Elvis Presley songs. Margo Sappington expanded her previously seen “Night and Day” pas de deux into a suite of five smartly energetic Cole Porter pieces, beautifully woven together. And, yes, there was even more.

A great evening. But there was a downside. Well, the same-day news that the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra cancelled its first two weeks of concerts for the season did seem to dampen some of the big-picture spirit of the evening. While the Indianapolis City Ballet has established itself with great benefit concerts and a strong series of master classes, one of its stated goals is to develop a full-time professionally ballet company here in Indy. Can we sustain a professional ballet company in Indy if we can’t figure out how to sustain a full-time orchestra?

Your thoughts? 

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  • Future of the Arts in Indy
    "Can we sustain a professional ballet company in Indy if we can’t figure out how to sustain a full-time orchestra?" Lou Harry wisely asks... A quick glance at the arts in Indianapolis shows its great strengths and profound vulnerabilities. There are great creative forces at work in the area and a generosity corps of individuals and others who keep them going. It is the vulnerability of most, if not all, of the arts institutions that make us very concerned - it is evident in the economics of Indy arts organizations. As covered in the IBJ and evident in government filings, arts organization in Indy have an anemic earned revenue core - less than 20% of total revenue and in many cases closer to 10% (this number should be around to 40%). This uncovers a short-term failure in effective marketing of events and tickets and a more disturbing long-term failure in educating and engaging a community as audience members and advocates. There is no quick solution to this problem - it is hard work rebuilding a community of support and it needs to start now. As for the future of ballet in Indianapolis, we all in large part sink or swim together. We continue to work to find more ways and new ways to engage a larger audience. With a modest budget of approximately $400,000 per year, Indianapolis City Ballet is working mightily to bring real value and excitement to the community - we are pleased with our results but anxious to advance our program base as soon as the marketplace warrants it. Kevin Hesse, Executive Director Indianapolis City Ballet
  • No Funding For the Arts
    Many years ago the economy was strong. Our city attracted many corporations to make their head quarters here in Indianapolis. We were not a middle management town as we have now become. The citizens of our City owned the banks located within our state boundaries.They cared deeply about making Indianapolis great and they helped fund the Arts. We attracted many companies such as GTE which is now Verison, Thomson Consumer Electronics, Conseco, to name a view. Those businesses contributed generously to the arts, making them what they are today. The Indiana government was asked to make a restructure of taxation policy where it pertained to them, because other states were willing to do that. Indiana did not heed the warning, that the Companies would move their businesses to states that would offer them benefits to move to their states. We them lost those companies and the Arts have been in a spiral downward ever since. Our present governor has been trying to rebuild that lost tax base, but it is very difficult in these hard times to relocate businesses here. It would have been beneficial to have kept the ones that were here in the good times. It is not just our state but all states are having a hard time sustaining funds for the Arts.

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