Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico's third show of each season always promises something a little different than the classical works they are known to showcase. "Pasion!" was an evening of dance presented by the company on May 4 and 5, and comprised of three choreographers' works, all with a Latin or Spanish theme.
Katherine Giese's opening number "Huapango" was set on four couples, and felt light and airy in the joyful expressiveness of the dancers. Unlike most of the works the company performs, this evening was presented in soft slipper, which gives the dancers an entirely different way to approach their movement.
Loren Fletcher Nickerson's work completed the first act, with eight different pieces, each a unique expression of his artistic journey taking place within the atmosphere that our state provides. Art by Kym Loc, as well as other projections played on the scrim behind the dancers, never upstaging the choreography but allowing an alternative vision for the audience to experience. The opening piece, danced by Loren himself, introduced the theme of self discovery, and included spoken word, in Spanish, to allow for another dimension within the movement and art.
Loren's contemporary ballet style required the dancers to look within themselves to find the characters meant to express each dance's mood, from languorous such as Mirra McFadden, Erika Ray and Victoria Stines in "Clouds on a Mesa," to the playful "Sister Tango," with Christina Daly and Briana Van Schuyver. Other company dancers were strong in duets, such as "Love Times Four" and in group works, such as the final number, "Red cinnamon sky," where Antonio Lopez had a particularly strong solo moment.
The second act comprised of Alex Ossadnik's "Carmen," set to music by Rodion Shchedrin after George Bizet, a version which allows the story to be compressed and presented without interruption. This year marks the third time Alex's "Carmen" has been presented by BRTNM, the first being in 1998 -- which I had the good fortune of seeing! -- as well as 2006. This newest cast included Christina Daly, whose haunting and dangerous Carmen was strong and heartfelt. However, Carmen's story would be nothing with Don Jose, danced brilliantly by Giacomo Zafarano. His sacrifice for Carmen shapes the tragedy of the story, and as such requires a dancer who can bring the level of artistry and story telling to the choreography.
One of my favorite moments played out almost exactly as I remembered it from 1998, the "rope dance" between Don Jose and Carmen, where the two tangle, pull, release and entrap one another. When done well, props can allow the performer to not only delight the audience with the ingenuity a prop provides, but also to allow them to develop their character's story. This is one crystalline moment that I was gratified to see play out again, 15 years since I last laid eyes on it.
Martin Murphy's Toreador was a chance for him to reprise his role, as he was cast in each version, and has always brought a level of haughty arrogance, and curious disdain as he interacts with Carmen. The moments he has traversing the chairs, always seeing himself above Carmen, better than the lowly factory woman, speaks to his ability as a dancer to overcome the challenge of the moment and deliver. Also elevated within the show is the character Fate, danced by Briana von Schuyver, who was the only dancer of the evening to perform in pointe shoes. Performing in mask as well, she embodies the otherworldly force from which Carmen can't escape, and Briana brilliantly used her expressiveness in her movement alone, without the benefit of facial expressions to tell the tale.
For more information about Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico, visit www.BRTNM.com.