FestivALL Dance Gala offers up a little of everything

By By Autumn D. F. Hopkins
For the Gazette

FestivALL danced on Wednesday night with a collaboration between the Charleston Ballet and the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble with the presentation of “Dance Gala,” featuring dancers from the New York City Ballet. The short but entertaining performance contained a wide array of dance and musical selections.

The show opened with a strange but whimsical piece from the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble featuring the dancers before an abstract back drop in bright orange synthetic wigs and tattered skirts, although the dancing and music were of a classical style the costumes were somewhat jarring and distracting.

A few numbers later, three of the Charleston Ballet’s feature dancers interpreted a piece called “Romanian Folk Dances.” The dancing was clean, well-choreographed and entertaining, but had I not had a program, I would not have realized it was supposed to be Romanian until well into the selection. The costumes looked more suited to Spanish princesses or possibly pirates.

However, after the first few numbers the production hit its stride with “East of Sam Black Church.” Performed by the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble the distinctly Appalachian feel of the piece swept the audience up and tangibly raised the excitement level in the room. The dancers wore simple orange dresses and hypnotically swayed to a blue grass inspired sound track. The dance was simplistic and beautiful, and echoed haunting bits of square dance amidst a beautiful flowing routine. It was easily one of the favorites of the evening.

The first half of the show also included a couple traditional ballet pieces performed by the visiting members of the New York City Ballet. Both of which were lovely if somewhat predictable.

The second act opened with ultra-modern number by the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble called “Foot Traffic.” Honestly, the picture reel of Capitol Street, run through some kind of special effects movie editor, on the large screen behind the dancers was so distracting I saw little of the dance itself. What I did see involved a lot of slow motion walking and bustling across the stage. In the future it would behoove the troupe not to distract so much from their performance with special effects.

Following “Foot Traffic” Claire Von Enck of the New York City Ballet performed an exciting little number called “Princes Florine.” Fun and energetic with a frenetic pace the audience was delighted with this short and athletic treat.

The last two pieces flowed into a theme of American music from the ‘20s and ‘30s. “Who Cares,” performed by Savannah Lowery and Zachary Catazaro of the New York City Ballet was a smooth jazzy routine set to music by George Gershwin. They seamlessly blended some of the more gravity defying moves of ballet with period specific dance moves that could easily have found the couple in a nightclub of that era.

The grand finale was a suite from “The Flappers” performed by the Charleston Ballet. It was simply the most entertaining spectacle of the evening. The costumes and backdrop transported the audience to the roaring ‘20s, like a scene from “The Great Gatsby.” The ladies marvelously danced with abandon, flinging themselves through the Charleston and other fun loose-kneed dances of the period, ending with the entire ensemble in a full split, quite a feat.

Overall, the show was a whimsical selection of many different genres allowing the audience a little taste of everything like a buffet of dance. It was the perfect addition to the inclusive theme of festival and a lovely way to spend a Wednesday evening.

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