Diverse weekend of entertainment features Women's Chorus and Aura Curiatlas

The Virginia Gazette

Last weekend offered two examples of the diverse entertainment now a regular part of our lives.Friday found the Williamsburg Women's Chorus at Walnut Hills Baptist Church and the Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre on Saturday in the Kimball Theatre.

The Women's Chorus, now under the direction of Rob Keene, offered a finely sung program, "Nocturnes and Lullabies," that offered songs ranging from popular, choral, and classical, to instrumental.

Opening and closing with two selections from Bernstein's "West Side Story," "Something's Coming" and "Tonight," the fare included such diverse works as Barber's lovely "Sure on this Shining Night," Kodaly's ethereal "Mountain Nights," Schumann's lyrical "Madchenlieder," and several lullabies, the most cohesively and sensitively performed of which was Billy Joel's "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)."

Virginia Symphony flutist Rachel Ordaz delivered a flowing reading of Kennan's lyrical "Night Soliloquy," as did violist Matthew Umlauf an introspective rendering of Tchaikovsky's bitter-sweet "Nocturne," both of which offered enhanced listening appeal.

Featured was William Averitt's "From Dreams," a work based on three poems by James Joyce.Set for small choir, flute and viola, its contemporary sounds were appealing and created a haunting, ethereal-like mood.The Choraliers and Ordaz and Umlauf delivered it with care and sensitivity, making this a notable east coast premiere.

While more confidence in delivery and sectional balance of the sort heard in the Billy Joel would have enhanced the overall effort, this "Nocturnes and Lullabies" program was nicely done.With superb support supplied by pianist Christine Niehaus, this debut performance by Keene suggested a keen connection in the making.

Aura Curiatlas, founded by Joan Gavaler, professor of dance at the College of William and Mary, and Dan Plehal, former W&M alum, is a relatively new operation that blends elements of dance, theatre, acrobatics, mime, hip hop and improvisation into engaging movement.

In line with its aim to tell non-verbal stories through physical movement, "Dream Logic" offered 10 stories collaboratively crafted and primarily performed by Gavaler, Plehal, collaborator Mickey Lonsdale and four guest artists.

While there is a storyline to each work, Aura believes the ultimate interpretation of each is individual, the basic goal being enjoyment and making personal connections with what's being seen.Based on audience reaction, Aura achieved its goal.

Of the lot, the most crafted concept was the closing "Krayola," wherein three crayons competed for selection from an open box and, when the box was shut, carried on in gleeful interaction.It truly was smart and quite clever.

The event opened on a light note with "Special Delivery" in which people fought over a package that turned out to be delivered to the wrong address.Silly yes, but fun, as was "Seats" in which four artists became a bus, seats on a bus, and passengers interacting in often irritating manner.If you've been on a bus, it was familiar territory.

Diverting too was "Etude" which found a solo performance being interrupted by an audience member who wanted to get in on the dance, made more fun with a Rossini score. Not all was light fare as seen in "Dust" and"Newton's Cradle," both of which offered darker, more introspective moments.

Aura is a high energy operation of very skilled folk.The group drew a fairly large audience, including a number of children who appreciably giggled at many of the antics, further realization of Aura's aim to offer movement for all ages and, in turn, enjoyment.

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