|Hummingbird in a Box. Photo: Peter Mueller|
The first few bars of a pop tune can define its character, and this was true for the leadoff song in Hummingbird, "The Promenade's Retreat." During the introductory vamp, the dancers popped onstage one by one to strike a pose on the beat before moving fluidly across the stage; their pacing underscored the catchy rhythm. The acoustic guitar's sound was clean and bright and felt like a tangible presence in the theater. My familiarity with Frampton's music is from his famous Live! album; the Joyce evening's songs rang faint bells, and though they didn't recall the shimmering utopian folksiness of his massive '70s hits, they were catchy and pleasing. The cast wore sharp looking black sequinned bras and tutus; the men, white jeans; the costumes are designed by Diana Adams.
|Janessa Touchet in Hummingbird in a Box. Photo: Amy Harris.|
It's a pattern that's familiar because it works, providing dynamic shifts within a typically 20-25 minute work, a showcase for the strengths of each individual dancer, and a reason to
use music with the correlative characteristics of range and virtuosity. And often an evening is made up of three such works, modules that have become the norm due to a viewer's attention and duration span, and the realities of putting together a major dance which include rehearsal scheduling and music management. And so it happens that while watching a show such as Cincinnati Ballet's, it breaks down to 20 or so short movements that begin to feel like déja vu.
Caprice featured music by Paganini played live onstage by violinists Haoli Lin and Yabing Tang, who alternated solos. The costumes, by Sandra Woodall, are flattering, elegant dresses and tank tops/pants of pewter, with darker yoke accents. I have to confess that the music was so devilish and the playing so virtuosic that I often found myself watching the violinists rather than the dancers, who were giving it their adrenalized best. They landed in arabesques from cartwheels, held super high extended legs for an extra beat, and when they were still, it was often in a running pose.
Trey McIntyre's suite, Chasing Squirrel (2004), employed an odd recording by Kronos Quartet, Nuevo, a survey of Mexican tunes that at times hewed toward shrill. The gorgeous backdrop, a matrix of flower bouquets, was designed by Woodall, as was the well-worn boudoir wear of the women and the mens' zoot suits, which were either hot pink, or faded rose. The women, their hair teased out, infused their performances with more individual character than the other dances. One wore a gown with a big train, which several men partnered in addition to its wearer. McIntyre makes memorable stage pictures and infuses the dancers with little characteristics, thereby distinguishing his dances.