One of the many fine things about the Richmond Ballet is the diversity of dance it offers and the venues. While the ornate Carpenter Theatre tends to be the focal spot for the professional company's bigger dance offerings, its Studio Theatre located in its large Canal Street home provides a perfect viewing for things more modern.
It is here, in an intimate, tiered-seating setting that you can enjoy the dance and feel as if you're almost on stage with the dancers. The proximity to the modern dance allows a more personal experience and greater inspection of the art form.
The most recent Studio Two fare, seen at Wednesday's matinee, offered two distinctly different dances: artistic associate and ballet master Malcolm Burn's "A Tribute (to Marcel Marceau & Bip)" and a Katarzyna Skarpetowska world premiere.
One of the hottest choreographers on the international scene, Skarpetowska's works have graced such modern dance companies as Parsons and Lar Lubovich. Her "Polaris," commissioned by the Richmond Ballet several years ago, will be part of Richmond's program when it performs in May at New York's Joyce Theater.
For this Studio Two program, she offered "Scarred Bouquets" set to the last two movements of the Brahms Piano Quartet Op. 60. Subtitled the "Werther Quartet," based on the poem by Goethe, the musical work is dramatic, lyrical, and poignant, musical reflections reflected in the dance.
The Reader's Digest theme is love sought and love lost. And it is with these limited descriptors that "Scarred Bouquets" takes shape. Skarpetowska has artistically crafted a dramatic work that embraces and mirrors both the music and poetic nature of Goethe's "Werther" in its varied forms. There's a sense of longing and desire and ultimate refusal or rejection that plays out in somewhat neo-classical style, made notably more impressive by dramatic lighting. "Scarred Bouquet" fit the 12 dancers comfortably, a not surprising fact since the piece was created for Richmond. No doubt with continued presentation, it will fit the company even more tightly.
As for Burn's "Tribute," what a treat. With a delightful score by Ricardo Drigo, this charming ballet reflected the impact of several muses and their most famous characterizations on the genius of the great pantomime Marcel Marceau — Jean-Gaspard Deburau (Pierrot), Charles Chaplin (Little Tramp) and Arthur Marx (Harpo).
While three male dancers (Thomas Ragland, Kirk Henning, Marty Davis) represented the comedic trio, it fell to Cody Beaton to serve as an overall muse who interacted with the sure-footed and talented men, her pointe work finely defined and refined, her lines elegant and her presentation as dazzling as her smile.
Although the idea for "Tribute" was clever, the individual portrayals seemed not to relay any noticeable connection to the honored muses or their noted characters. That did not, however, prevent "Tribute" from being a cheerful piece that effectively merged music and movement into a witty and warm dance. According to a news release, Burn crafted "Tribute" in memory of and gratitude to Marceau for the impact his work had on Burn's long and substantial dance career. As such, it was a noble and generous gesture that spoke louder than words through dance.
Shulson, a Williamsburg resident and former professional musician, has been covering the arts for over 40 years. He makes a guest appearance in Margaret Truman's "Murder at the Opera."