Photos: Kevin Fiscus

Sacramento Ballet: Bach to Now and Beyond Review

Sacramento Ballet’s Bach to Now and Beyond ends its run on Saturday, April 2nd. If you have not already seen this show, I highly encourage you to make room in your schedule for one of the remaining performances. The show consists of three very different movements, all of which are powerful and demonstrate the talent, athleticism, and grace of the Sacramento Ballet dancers, the skill and innovation of each choreographer, and are set to fantastic music both classical and modern. This production is, upon initial reflection, among my favorites in the past five years. It demonstrates the beauty and range of the company, incorporating a range of styles and musical influences that will appeal to art, music, and dance lovers alike.

Bach to Now and Beyond is co-directed by Sacramento Ballet co-artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, who have steered the Sacramento Ballet for the past 28 years. This show begins, as Sacramento Ballet performances often do, with a performance from George Balanchine: “Concerto Barocco”, set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Double Violin Concerto, and features two principal female dancers (many performances feature the elegant guest artist Allyne Noelle) who represent the two violins from the music, along with a single male dancer (Richard Porter or Stefan Calka) and a corps of female dancers. The female dancers play off on another in time with the musicSacramento Ballet has a long-standing relationship with the Balanchine Trust and the New York City Ballet, which has been very generous in allowing the Company to perform many of Balanchine’s masterpieces.allynne and ava 2The second segment of the show, “Written On It,” is set to music by Philip Glass and choreographed by Ashley Walton. This inventive piece is in its first professional ballet premiere and features three wall segments painted for this performance by local artist Raphael Delgado. According to Ms. Walton, the walls help visually reinforce the defined transitions in the piece. The wall segments – which move together and apart throughout the performance, releasing and then hiding dancers as the movement progresses – are as much a character in the performance as lead dancer Lauryn Winterhalder, who is electrifying, powerful, and evocative. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this performance blew my mind.lw and chris wall 3 lw wall 4 The final piece is by one of my favorite contemporary choreographers, Ma Cong. “Blood Rush” has significance for the Sacramento Ballet: Cong created this piece for his former company, the Tulsa Ballet, to perform as it occupied its new space in 2008. This is the Ballet’s first full performance in their new studio and performance space at the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts (formerly the Fremont Adult School, repurposed as an arts incubator). Set to the work of Argentine composer Astor Piazolla, “Blood Rush” is a series of meditations on the tango. Of note are the pas-de-deux, which features an incredible series of lifts as the couple traverse the stage, a trio which very much reminded me of the love triangle depicted in the classic French film Jules et Jim, and finally, the “Drum Dance” movement, which showcases five female dancers in a more visceral performance, with their long hair down rather than confined in the usual chignon.lw and chris ma ma opening As a whole, this show hangs together beautifully. The Balanchine piece showcases the beauty of classical ballet performance. “Written On It” builds upon the technical artistry, adding emotion and a new element to traditional performance, while “Blood Rush” uses the intensity and passion of ballroom dance to extend the form. The new space is an intimate environment without a bad view – all the more reason to see this show before it ends on April 2nd!