REVIEW: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Rodeo" are exquisitely performed by the Metropolitan Ballet.
By Camille Lefevre, Special to the Star Tribune
Last update: June 22, 2007 � 7:55 PM
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Rodeo"
Two iconic, lighthearted love stories -- one about mischievous fairies in a mythical woodland, the other featuring cowboys on a dusty American plain -- make up the Metropolitan Ballet's program this weekend. It's the perfect summer divertissement for audiences of all ages: enlightening, entertaining and exquisitely performed.
The program pairs Minneapolis choreographer Jennifer Hart's beautifully rendered "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (set to music by Mendelssohn) with the late Agnes DeMille's groundbreaking 1942 "Rodeo" (with score by Aaron Copland).
Both are story ballets told through a choreographic blend of pantomime, facial expression and dance. And the two choreographers' stylizations -- vibrant, joyous and eminently accessible but profoundly different -- provide a wonderful contrast.
In telling Shakespeare's tale of feuding fairy royalty and the mortals discombobulated by misplaced pixie dust, Hart has drawn clear characterizations through her choreography. Oberon (Ramon Theilen) is all muscular dominance. But he softens beside the gossamer presence of Titania (Mifa Ko), whose arm flicks and slight hip juts flash the steel will beneath her ethereal swirl.
The gymnastic Puck (Keith Glenn) cavorts with devil-may-care exuberance. Bottom (Sam Feipel) canters and kicks with the confusion of a simple man suddenly finding himself an ass and the object of a queen's affections. The pouting, clingy, disabused Helena (Leah Gallas) seesaws midair between her two suitors.
A statuesque Hermia (Laura Goodman) moves effortlessly next to her courtly Lysander (Andrew Lester), as a bothered Demetrius (Nicholas Lincoln) is transformed by love.
Frosting this delightful confection are the numerous fairies -- girls and young women on point, and even a charismatic Changeling (Adam Wilhelmy) -- who mitigate cuteness with professionalism.
In contrast, DeMille's innovatively stylized bronco-busting, lasso-twirling and fence-sitting infuse the choreography of "Rodeo" with its rugged western spirit. And no one embodies it better than Michelle Mahowald, who owns her tomboy role as the Cowgirl (originally danced by DeMille).
She stalks angrily through a crowd of pinafore-wearing ladies. She jerks her body like an unbroken horse and rider. She collapses in a sulk beside the chiseled Wrangler (Andrei Jouravlev), who spurns her.
And when she hoofs in a loud red dress in the arms of the tap-dancing Champion Roper (David Tamaki), her delight is infectious. Never has an evening of ballet been so much fun.
Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities dance critic.