Remember when “The West Wing” or, before that, “Hill Street Blues” seemed to have a lock on Emmy Awards?
Well, after eight years and eight outstanding productions, Indianapolis City Ballet’s annual “Evening with the Stars” event (Nov. 12) now pretty much has a lock on being one of the top arts events of every year. My enthusiasm for this year’s event is only mitigated by the fact that the Murat was barely half-full.
The format is roughly the same every year—bring in some of the leading ballet dancers from around the world and let them do their thing—but each installment offers slight variation in elements and in texture.
This year’s kicked off with a joyful stage full of elementary school students from Kids Dance Outreach effectively reminding the crowd that fun can be as important as technical precision with spirited moves to Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” Aaron Copland’s “Hoe Down” from “Rodeo,” and their signature “Goin’ Back to Indiana.”
A mellower tone was set by the professionals, with San Francisco Ballet’s Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno offering a lighthearted, minuet-inspired duet, “Seven Sonatas.” American Ballet Theatre’s Daniil Simkin, a hit at early ICB events, teamed with Berlin Ballet’s Iana Salenko in an otherworldly “La Pluie” incorporating music by Hildegard von Binge and J.S. Bach. And, grounded in narrative, “King Arthur’s Camelot” featured Abigail Morwood, Cervilio Miguel Amador and David Morse of the Cincinnati Ballet in two connected sequences from their company’s upcoming February production of the feature-length work (where it will be performed with live music from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra).
More difficult to pin down was “This Bitter Earth”—with Dinah Washington’s deliberate, contemplative singing/reciting accompanying New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in an achingly slow meditation of vulnerability and support. “Today you are young/Too soon you’re old” she sang as this gorgeous couple tenderly existed in the present for each other. But the piece drifted away quickly, like dream, leaving me wondering how much the presence of these two dancers elevated rather than merely enhanced Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography.
Sharp contrasts were on the docket for a number of the dancers, with Stuttgart Ballet’s Veronika Verterich charmingly running off with a traditional role in “Sleeping Beauty” while, later, taking an edgier tact with Katarzyna Kozielska’s “Bite.” The aforementioned Tyler Peck also showed a wide range, with “This Bitter Earth” and somber “Acheron” contrasting with “Budget Bulgar,” in which she let her hair down to team with Memphis jookin’ Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles.
Other highlights included Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky urgently squaring off in Francesco Ventriglia’s “Black,” and Iana Salenko and Danill Simkin putting a cap on the evening “look what I can do” moves that Marius Petipa created for “Le Corsaire.”
It was almost enough to get me to forgive the woman in front of me who violated house rules by taping most of the event on her camera.