A REVIEW OF LEXINGTON BALLET COMPANY
By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
My mother and I attended New Works and Other Voices, a free performance by the Lexington Ballet Company, Saturday, October 27, 2018, at LexArts on 161 N. Mill Street, Lexington. I had no idea what to expect, as I was unfamiliar with the program.
From the moment Lexington Ballet Artistic Director, Luis Dominguez spoke, I knew immediately the audience was in for a robust explosion of cultural spirit. As he introduced each choreographer, musical background of each composition, and the meaning behind each dance, his love and respect for art was exuberant. The featured choreographers are also company dancers and instructors at the Lexington Ballet. As each one spoke before the cast’s performance, the heartfelt sincerity and passion for dance was palpable.
But the dancers’ performances topped that. Beyond demonstrating a graceful physical flexibility, they overwhelmed the room with youthful passion, and shared their hearts through dance. It is rare to attend a concert that rises above technical mastery to resonate directly with the heart. But Lexington Ballet Company cast did just that, with every performance of the concert.
I don’t know anything about dance. But, I gathered from each selection of the concert, that these young people have vigorously worked to overcome their physical limitations. That was obvious from their movements, and their polished achievements are worth the spotlight of attention.
The colorful costumes changed throughout the concert, adding oomph to the visual cultural expression onstage. The unity of the dancers was impressive. They created a harmoniously flowing motion with bodies of different shapes, heights and age. They made it look easy.
The atmosphere within the room transformed through the purity of the energetic dancers. In today’s world filled with self-inflicted barriers, darkness and disunity, Lexington Ballet’s performances immersed the audience with spiritual and emotional therapy. The power of their artful dances, evidently rooted in the expression of each artist’s heart and soul, led the audience through an array of emotion.
I could feel my own heart open, and sometimes be astounded by their phenomenal talent. It is this kind of artistic performance, based on communicating heart to heart, that has the power to bring hope to our society. “Music is an expression of the human spirit; it speaks directly to the heart and proves that we can transcend national and ethnic barriers. It plays a critical role in building peace.”1
This is a strong factor in the argument for arts promotion. Lexington Ballet Company’s program offers solid training in dance to youth. But observing their concert last Saturday, they go far deeper than that. They provide their dancers with holistic development toward becoming true artists.
I cannot think of a single thing our society needs more than raising capable, spiritually empowered youth. The development of young artists connects wellness of mind, body, and spirit. Experiencing art as a performer or audience member is rehabilitation for the soul. Art is a great place to start in our complicated world, toward building bridges between humans. Art is healing and energizing for all, as it is a collaboration between humans in the most vulnerable form.
Choreographer/Dancer Casey Myrick introduced the first piece, Anxious Desires, by musician Sufjan Stevens, which featured modern dance movements grounded in classical dance styles. Myrick said the work was inspired by a Buddhist concept about anxiety stemming from desire and how anxiety can actually work to fulfill our desires. The performance was a unique, outside-the-box mentality of dance that evoked discomfort lending to intrigue. Dancers bodies and expressions emoted fear, doubt, distress, and finally, resolution and relief.
Choreographer/Dancer Alexandra Orenstein introduced UnderTones, her work set to an excerpt from jazz composer, Keith Jarrett's solo piano work, Lausanne Concert. The improvisational music builds on a rhythmic droning, with Jarrett’s infamous knack for outflowing melodic lines. Orenstein’s organic, abstract modern approach to movement for each dancer emerged naturally, in sync with the music’s pulsating crescendo and layered texture.
Talented dancer, Ayako Hasebe Lloyd’s stunning entrance in a bold red dress, and her ensuing solo dance to Sand, mesmerized the audience. Luis Dominguez and Lexington Ballet School Director and Ballet Mistress, Nancy Dominguez "developed the collaborative piece as a pas de seul”2 for Lloyd.
The first section of the dance, Sand, was set to Luis Ni’s G Minor Bach, and choreographed by Nancy Dominguez as an homage to her mother, who passed away with Alzheimer’s last year. Next, Zoom-Out, set to a song by Drummond Dominguez, was choreographed by Luis Dominguez. Lloyd’s movements were elegant, bursting with passion tempered with artistic maturity that shook the room with her life-force.
Lloyd’s commanding performance segued fluidly into Kaylie Conner and Sean Sullivan’s romantic Pas de Deux, performed to Nightflight, by Drummond Dominguez and Ethan Gustavson. The performances, highlighted by vivid red costumes, led flawlessly to the final group piece choreographed by Nancy and Luis Dominguez, to Fernando Delgadillo’s La Inspiration.
During intermission, my mother and I engaged in a natural conversation with strangers around us. Was it the dancers’ performances, emanating with openness and intimacy, that made it so easy for strangers to interact?
We went well beyond small talk to discover that the couple behind us had a 28-year old son who’d been diagnosed with 4th-stage cancer. This led to our sharing that we had lost my 28- year old brother to a car accident in 2004. We opened up and shared honestly with each other in the short dialog.
We took our seats as Lloyd introduced the meaning behind her choreography to Our Blue Hearts by Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi. “This work is inspired by the blue stained-glass hearts that hang in the Lexington Ballet studio windows as a memorial to a past student.”3 The dance featured the largest cast of the evening, and in particular, the youngest performers.
Lloyd talked about how the personal loss of her brother inspired her choreography. She shared warmly how grief affects many, and it was her intent that the piece would help audience members cope with loss and feel supported. Her introduction and the dance performance were mystically in sync with the conversation my mother and I had with the couple behind us.
The choreography and dance were deeply touching. Depicting the sorrow of loss as relationships end, the stage evolved from soloists to exponentially growing numbers of dancers exhibiting grief through facial expression and movement. As Hisaishi’s music progressed with a symphonic swell, a solo dancer was hoisted atop a group of dancers, like pallbearers carrying the deceased. The audience was moved by its emotional intensity.
The dancers, in delicate blue costumes, swirled onstage from scene to scene, ending with a harmonious, joyful, full cast of camaraderie. It symbolized, to me, the victory over tragedy with the power of friendship, community, and spiritual transformation.
My words do not do justice to the eloquence and impact of the Lexington Ballet Company performances. “We can know a country’s rise and fall by whether its tones are happy or sad.”3 The Lexington Ballet Company's display of artistic beauty, poise and soul expressed the gamut of moods, yet landed on the joyous, the united and hopeful.
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1 Daisaku Ikeda, peace advocate, Buddhist philosopher, educator, author, poet and leader of
Soka Gakkai International
2 Extracted from LexingtonBallet.org
3. Extracted from LexingtonBallet.org
4 Nichiren, 13th century Buddhist leader
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