The Georgia Ballet‘s “Rhythm and Rhapsody,” presented at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre on October 22, was an evening of flirtation, jubilee and romance. Exhibiting exceptional extensions, fast pointe work and syncopated rhythms, the Marietta-based troupe performed Janusz Mazon’s “Prelude Pictures,” a world premiere, and George Balanchine’s “Who Cares?,” both set to George Gershwin’s music.
A potluck of classical, contemporary and modern ballet, the performance began with “Aurora’s Wedding,” Act 3 from Tchaikovsky’s 19th-century Russian classic “The Sleeping Beauty.” The 1889 score is a timeless representation of the fairy tale of true love, and the Georgia Ballet dancers brought the nostalgic elements to life. Phillip Skaggs and Amanda Farris performed the roles of Prince Florimund and Aurora with formality and utmost control. But Ashleyanne Hensley stole the audience’s affection as Princess Florine. Her graceful but strong exertions were a pleasant reminder of the true beauty of classical ballet.
Balanchine’s casual, contemporary “Who Cares?” lightened the atmosphere with “The Man I Love,” a pas de deux that exhibited the flirtatious, affectionate feelings of two young people falling in love. Blue lighting and projections of abstract skyscrapers provided a soft, dreamy ambiance that accentuated the interactions between Abby Hyatt and Skaggs. Best of all was “I Got Rhythm,” which featured Hyatt, Skaggs, Elizabeth Chapman and Mara Mandradjeff, all quickly weaving and spinning with exact precision. Gershwin’s rhythms are fast and complex, but the dancers executed the steps with elegant and playful showmanship.
The evening’s highlight was resident choreographer Mazon’s “Prelude Pictures.” The dancers were perfectly outfitted by Hensley, the women in close-fitting flowing dresses and the men in formal, aristocratic vests. The scene, set in a club filled with couples and low tables, suggested the post-World War II era. Farris, who had just appeared as Aurora, was now a modern single woman with a gentle, infectious manner. Her petite, lithe body conveyed innocence and indecisiveness combined with the certainty of romantic desire. Guest dancer Raul Peinado, originally from Spain, wooed her in a soft and surprisingly difficult duet. In breathless lifts and tender embraces, the two further expressed the evening’s theme of love.
But then a complicated foursome of lovers emerged, mesmerizing the audience. Suddenly it was not clear whom Farris, Peinado or the additions of Hensley and Beau Foster really loved. Relationships changed constantly among them.
Farris and Peinado ran off stage together numerous times. But soon afterward, Peinado would dance with Hensley again. Mazon’s luscious choreography felt smooth and charming, even in the midst of such plot confusion. He presented group ensembles dramatically, with Hensley at the front of the pyramid. Her direct eye contact with the audience was unyielding and utterly gripping. A program note ascribed this maze of relationships to the confusions of modern life, in which it becomes “increasingly difficult to differentiate the true from the false, the sane from the insane, the real from the unreal.…”
Overall, the Georgia Ballet’s high standards for both the company and its choreographic undertakings shone through. Under the leadership of Mazon and Artistic Director Gina Hyatt-Mazon, this relatively small troupe is a force to be reckoned with.
(Photos by Janusz Mazon)