By Jim Carnes
When you go to the Sacramento Ballet's 2011 Beer & Ballet production -- and with six choices of performances, the first one being Saturday, there's no reason not to go -- you'll be struck by two things: the breadth and depth of choreographic talent in the company and the pluck and personality (not to mention the ability) of dancer Chloe Horne.
Beer & Ballet is the annual in-studio presentation of new works created and performed by resident company dancers. The styles range from classically inspired pieces to very contemporary works, all performed in the informal setting of the Sacramento Ballet's rehearsal studio. It's an up-close and personal experience -- and one in which the dancers are not afraid to let you see them sweat. The program will be presented Saturday and again May 25-29. The ticket price includes two beverages, and this year, for the first time, the dancers have even brewed the beer you'll be served. Brew It Up! provided the space and the technical advice for the two brews, one light and one dark, which the dancers are calling Stumbleena and Blackout Swan.
That humor carries over into a lot of the dance program, too -- much of it thanks to Horne. She has created three dances on the show: "Remembering the Festival, Excerpt #1": "Remembering the Festival, Excerpt #2"; and "Slides." "Excerpt No. 1" is the only piece on the 12-dance program that's a repeat. Horne debuted it last year and was asked to reprise and expand upon it, hence "No. 2." Both are joyous pieces suggested by English peasant dance. "Slides" is performed to music by the American pop band Beirut and is equally athletic but much more contemporary. Horne's introduction about how the piece came to be (she started to make one dance but ...) is charming and funny.
Horne's dancing is likewise funny and charming. In Stefan Calka's dreamline rumination on reality and creativity, Horne, dressed in blue, wanders among an ensemble of black-clad dancers. Calka grounds the piece, "Some Kind of Communion," to music by John Adams, with dancers on the floor, then rising and falling with the inflation and deflation of life's events. And then, he said, "It seemed like fun to put Chloe in the middle of it, wandering through all these translations of the elements of life." In Rex Wheeler's "The Professionals," Horne is a super-caffeinated whirling dervish who leaves the barre and periodically tornadoes around the stage, leaving other dancers in her wake. She looks out of control but isn't.
Wheeler, who is in his first year dancing with the company, has created two dances for the program. In addition to the humorous inside-ballet "Professionals," he has made an untitled (as of dress rehearsal time) neo-classical work featuring four couples.
Dancer Sunchai Muy also has created two dances: "Feel My Love," to a song of the same title by Adele, for four couples; and "Pura Vida,"a lyrical dance with more than a hint of sadness to it, to music by Fariborz Lachini, Alex Stewart (a ballet company apprentice), and "Ave Maria," performed by Sarah Brightman. The variety of styles of the works is impressive.
Likewise, the two pieces created by dancer Christopher B. Nachtrab show a grasp of varying styles. "Forgotten Dreams," to music by Philip Glass, is a muscular dance for three men (Calka, Roberto Cisneros and Oliver-Paul Adams, all fine), while his "Euphoniums Up!" to the first movement of Eric Ewazer's "Euphonium Concerto" is a playful piece, amazingly well-matched to the music. It features a couple of quite difficult lifts and calls for a series of backward hops on pointe. Alexandra Cunningham (alternating with Brik Middlekauff) is featured, along with Stewart and Lauryn Winterhalder and Alex Biber and Isha Lloyd.
Dancer Biber also choreographs "Royal Theme," a nicely crafted work in which three or four basic phrases are manipulated and repeated to create a cohesive whole. The piece plays well to the company's strengths of fine partnering and excellent ensemble dancing.
Also on the program is "Some Things Becoming New," choreographed by former company member Darwin Black to the song "Firefly" by Christopher Benstead. It is performed by Wheeler with fluid yet tightly controlled movement, an exercise in sustained concentration.
"Beer & Ballet" is an outlet for company members to express their choreographic creativity and to challenge their fellow dancers. It is a program bristling with energy, intelligence and good humor. Much like the company itself.
Call The Bee's Jim Carnes, (916) 321-1130.
IF YOU GO
BEER & BALLET
WHAT: The Sacramento Ballet presents a program of new works created by company dancers
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday and May 25-28 and 2 p.m. May 29
WHERE: Sacramento Ballet Studio, 1631 K St., Sacramento
COST: $35 (includes two beverages)
TICKETS AND INFORMATION: (916) 552-5800, Ext. 2 (10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1:30-3 p.m. Monday-Friday) or online at www.sacballet.org