Music in motion: Carolina Ballet’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ a swanky success

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent 

   An evening of symphonic interpretation and voyage, the translation of iconic music into motion — Carolina Ballet’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” performed Thursday night at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, 2 E South Street, Raleigh, is the epitome of variety and class.
Consisting of four ballets, the performance showcased all facets of the company, from the classical to the swanky. The evening began with “Serenata,” a light and cheerful piece set to the music of Antonin Dvorák. Nine couples took the stage with fluid, effortless grace, executing daring lifts and delicate steps that appeared to defy gravity with ease. Choreographed by artistic director Robert Weiss, “Serenata” accents both the emphatic and syncopated melodies in the music, a combination of lyrical explosion and freedom.
In contrast to the carefree air set by “Serenata,” the following dance, “Courtly Manners,” has a more structured feel but retains all of its exuberance. Like its title, the piece is regal, reminiscent of traditional court dances. Solely composed of corps de ballet members, the dance featured incredible formations, seeming exact and orderly one moment and shifting into something completely new in the blink of an eye. Transitioning smoothly from a grand, formal entrance to a slower second movement to a final burst of majestic motion, Courtly Manners is the portrait of royal poise and flamboyance.
   Mephisto Waltz, a new pas de deux also choreographed by Weiss, takes the mystery and drama of Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz No. 1″ and brings it to life. Featuring principal dancers Lilyan Vigo and Yevgeny Shlapko, it seems to play out the haphazard attraction between a young girl and the Devil. Both Vigo and Shlapko embody their characters, expressing a full range of emotions through movement and luring the audience deeper and deeper into the tale. Shlapko’s Devil is both seductively human and unnaturally animalistic, radiating power and ruthlessness, while Vigo exudes a girlish innocence and naïveté, yet retains an air of independence and self-assurance. Cleverly following the emotional ebb and flow of the music, Mephisto Waltz is a unique and enthralling creation, leaving the audience hanging on every twist and turn of the incredible, immersive duet.
The crown jewel of the performance, Zalman Raffael’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” captures the nuances and moods of George Gershwin’s iconic composition, from the jazzy sunrise to a drifting, romantic interlude to the glorious conclusion. The choreography is almost evocative of the different atmospheres of a party, showcasing the variety and glamour of a night on the town. A swanky corps de ballet flits in and out of the piece, embracing the jazz roots of “Rhapsody” and enjoying every note and rhythm.
Lindsay Purrington shines in a twilight solo that has the air of the Roaring Twenties, a carefree, brilliant example of independence and enthusiasm. In perhaps the most moving moment of “Rhapsody,” Jan Burkhard and Marcelo Martinez bring the starlight to the dance in a marvelous duet, filling the stage in perfect synchrony with swelling strings. Glamorous and glitzy, Rhapsody In Blue embraces the essence of a city-like bustle and breeziness, forming the perfect conclusion to a night of movement and melody.

Logan A. White is a home-schooled junior and a Teens & 20s writer.

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