Ballet Frontier of Texas displays artistic growth and a knack for storytelling in the company’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Fort Worth — From La Syphide and Pinocchio toFirebird, every year is better than the last in terms of technique, storyline, and costuming when talking about Ballet Frontier of Texas’ (BFT) annual spring concert. The company continued this tradition Saturday evening with a well-conceived and technically enchanting retelling of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the W.E. Scott Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. The lush forest scenery, detailed costuming and unearthly lighting all had a hand in making the show a success, but it was Artistic Director Chung-Lin Tseng’s astute choreography, especially in the pas de deux, where BFT’s true strength lies.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a tale of changing love triangles between King Oberon and Queen Titania; Lysander and Hermia; and Demetrius and Helena which are only made more confusing by the mischievous elf Puck’s mishandling of a love potion. Chaos ensues when both Lysander and Demetrius find themselves in love with Helena and Hermia is left heartbroken. Meanwhile a group of Mechanicals are rehearsing a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding when they encounter Puck who decides to turn Bottom’s (one of the villagers) head into a donkey. His voice awakens Queen Titania who is under the love potion’s spell and winds up falling in love with Bottom. In the end we discover it was King Oberon who asked Puck to concoct the love potion so he could take the Indian Boy from Titania. After taking the Indian Boy, Oberon has Puck remove the love spell and everyone is reunited with their true loves in time for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding.
With so many plot twists Tseng did the right thing by easing the audience into the story starting with spotlighted freeze frames of each couple and then presenting the couple’s one by one in some exquisite pas de deuxs and full body contact fighting sequences between the male leads. Lysander (Guest artist David Escoto) and Hermia (Mickayla Carr) professed their love for one another in the first scene with a number of tender traveling jete lifts and sustained arabesque holds and body dips as well as classic hand to heart gesturing. Carr’s natural grace and strong technique showed through her breathy arm movements during the petite allegro sections and her meticulous leg line as she passed through passé and extended into ponche arabesque with Escoto’s assistance. Demetrius (BFT Principal Dancer Dan Westfield) commanded attention with his gravity defying traveling tour jetes and double tour jumps to the knee as Helena (former BFT Dancer Tessa Moore) followed him performing a series of wistful bourrees with her head bowed. You see, Helena is head over heels for Demetrious, but unfortunately Demetrious is in love with Hermia who is clearly in love with Lysander. Demetrious’ relentless pursuit leads to some exciting fight sequences between Escoto and Westfield as well as some inventive partnering and hand offs between them and Carr.
The group dances in the forest scene with the fairies and butterflies were well rehearsed and musically inclined. The butterflies captured the nuances in Felix Mendelsohn’s score in their fluttering pointe work and swooping arm movement which were enhanced by the strips of fabric attached from their backs to their wrists. Maria Howard was naughty yet lovable in her role as Puck. She had the hardest job of being constantly animated in both her acting and dancing. Her over-the-top facial expressions never faltered, not even during a challenging fouette variation where she alternated between front and back attitude. Once the love potion did its job Westfield, Escoto and Moore executed a lovely pas de troisconsisting of over-the-head lifts, traveling jumps and warm embraces. Moore and Carr’s interactions with one another were not as affectionate, but they retained a graceful air even as they clawed at each other, drawing giggles from the audience.
On the other side of the forest Guest Artist Grant Dettling (King Oberon) and Anastacia Snyder (Queen Titania) performed a simply beautiful pas de deux with elongated extensions and shoulder lifts that finished with Snyder cradled in Dettling’s arms. The catch was Snyder was asleep for the duration which came through her downcast eyes and relaxed upper body. A difficult feat to accomplish in this regimented art form, but Snyder pulled it off with ease. Snyder also got to show off her whimsical side in her dance with Bottom (Jake Yarbrough) and later her natural exuberance in a series of fast piques and fouettes turns.
The group dances in the second half lacked some of the finesse of the numbers in the first act, but the delicate pas de deuxs performed by Westfield and Moore; Escoto and Carr; and Kenta Taniguchi (Theseus) and Hyppolita (Carli Petri) more than made up for it. The three couples seamlessly transitioned from the more athletic jumping sequences and press up lifts into the softer, sustained lunges and counter balance poses. Tseng is a master when it comes to sustained couples movement and effortless lifts with opposing momentum such as the ladies running tour jumps into a backward arabesque lunge.
This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.