Ballet Nebraska opened its 2012-2013 season Friday night with “Momentum,” a wonderfully varied program that focuses on contemporary dance styles and music.
A ballet spokeswoman said about 315 people attended. That meant there were far too many empty seats at Joslyn Art Museum's Witherspoon Concert Hall, a shame because the ballet company has several talented, appealing dancers and choreographers who deserve a bigger audience.
The night started with the premiere of “Sadako,” a melancholic ballet choreographed by Ballet Nebraska's ballet master, Matthew Carter. It's based on the true story of a little girl in Japan who gets sick with radiation poisoning a few years after Hiroshima. Her mother teaches Sadako origami because it's believed that if one creates 1,000 paper cranes, a wish will be granted.
But little Sadako dies before she can complete her cranes, so her friends and family make them as a memorial to her. In the ballet, the paper cranes turn into live cranes that escort the girl to a peaceful resting place.
The ballet includes several lovely and moving moments, especially the pas de deux between Sadako's mother (Erin Alarcón) and Death (Erika Overturff, Ballet Nebraska's founder and artistic director) and the dance of the cranes. The dancers and choreography make you believe you're watching cranes. It was, for me, the most impressive piece of the evening.
As Sadako, Sarah Tracy, a member of the Ballet Nebraska Junior Guild, doesn't really dance much, but she won the hearts of the audience.
The next piece was a total change of pace. Choreographer Armando Duarte created a lively dance to the rhythms of Brazilian folk music. “Six or Seven Studies for Sanfona de Boca (Harmonica)” is fast-paced, funny and colorful. Sasha York is a comedian as well as an accomplished dancer and scene-stealer. The female dancers — Alarcón, Natasha Grimm, Danielle Pite, Emma Raker and Katie van der Mars — also were delightful.
After the intermission, the company moved into several individual pieces that played well as a series and that showcased different dancers.
Overturff choreographed “Sweet and Low-Down,” which incorporated George Gershwin tunes as the dancers became dapper gentlemen and prancing showgirls. Carter's “Signs of Life” was a symphony of blue and brought to mind synchronized swimming routines.
Overturff and York wowed the audience with the sensual “Scattered Memories,” which blended gymnastic moves with ballet grace and passion, all to the Patsy Cline lament, “She's Got You.”
Grimm choreographed and danced “Cycle,” a dazzling solo that drew cheers.
After that, the audience was more than ready for the sizzling six-part finale, “Tropico,” set to calypso beats and the voices of Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Ruth Brown, Bebel Gilberto and Yma Sumac.
It's a fun and infectious series of dances that allows pretty much everyone in the company to have a moment in the spotlight. The audience got into it, too, clapping, whistling and swaying to the beat. It was a grand way to end the evening.
“Momentum” will be repeated at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $19 to $45 and are available by visiting www.balletnebraska.org/tickets or www.ticketomaha.com, or by calling 402-345-0606 or 866-434-8587 toll free.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1067, firstname.lastname@example.org