Street | Dance

Original choreography blooms and blossoms in PUB’s ‘Spring Production’

Princeton University Ballet takes the stage this weekend in the company’s spring show, “Spring Production.” The simply titled performance allows PUB to showcase its members’ increasingly creative choreography and technical prowess without worrying about adhering to a theme. The 90-minute performance features both classical variations and contemporary pieces. This semester, the program also includes a piece by guest choreographer Donna Salgado, artistic director of CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet in New York City. The noticeably longer show (with 21 pieces in total) tends to have a slower pace than desired, but several fantastic moments of near-choreographic brilliance and impeccable showmanship remind audiences how great PUB can be.

The show opens with “Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a playful piece that features Nathan Eckstein ’16 and Dana Fesjian ’17 as Oberon and Puck, respectively. Fesjian shines as her charismatic facial expressions brighten the stage and bring her character to life. The piece sets the tone for the majority of the classical variations: cheerful, graceful and technically sound.

A solo from Trent Kowalik ’17 follows as he performs “Variation from Esmerelda.” It is a pleasure to see PUB featuring its male dancers more prominently in “Spring Production,” as they have lacked visibility in past shows. Kowalik, Peter Deffebach ’17 and Connor Werth ’17 each take the stage for a solo moment, showing off their extensive training and performance ability. The men fly through the air and pirouette with ease. When they come together as Kowalik, Werth, Alex Quetell ’17 and Sebastian Gold ’14 do in “Raymonda Pas de Quatre Boys,” the result is stunning.

PUB’s ballerinas, not to be shown up by the boys, are equally beautiful. In “Seven Girls Dance from Coppelia,” Emily Wohl ’16 will melt your heart with her gentle demeanor as she moves effortlessly down the middle of the stage. In the same piece and throughout the show, Tyler Starr ’16 dazzles with her sunny smile and endless extensions. As they have before, Chloe Cheney-Rice ’14, Caroline Hearst ’14 and Paige Hupy ’14 stand out as consummate performers. These three women have great control over their bodies and faces, and dance with impressive poise. Cheney-Rice is exceptional in “All About You,” choreographed by Celina Culver ’15.

Culver’s piece is one of a few in PUB’s “Spring Production” that shows the company’s ability to create strong original choreography. “All About You,” a contemporary piece, moves seamlessly through formations as dancers break off to perform small solos before rejoining the group. The lighting and costumes only enhance the performance, and there is one particularly enchanting moment as the dancers gather center stage, encircled by a single spotlight. Culver’s choreography is special in that it makes each beat and note of the song, “All About You” by Ella Eyre, visible. Culver marries movement and music, a real feat and mark of a seasoned choreographer.

PUB’s underclassmen also offer glimpses of choreographic creativity and fearlessness. “Whenever I’m With — ” by Eckstein and Kelsey Kane-Ritsch ’16, and “Piece #1” by Deffebach, showcase riskier choreography. In both, the movements are more intricate, unafraid of ugliness. Dancers leap with flexed feet and contort their bodies into unconventional shapes. This “ugliness,” though, is captivatingly beautiful. In these two pieces, it is nice to see PUB moving away from the classic contemporary dance motifs to try something new.

However, PUB is not always successful in adapting to unique styles of movement. In guest choreographer Donna Salgado’s “A Prismatic Abstraction,” the dancers occasionally seem uncomfortable. That being said, when the dancers come forward to perform quick solos or duets, they light up and commit fully to the choreography. Veronica Edwards ’17 dances her solo well, displaying a solid grasp of Salgado’s choreography and style. However, those in the background moving through more subtle gestures show a lack of certainty that detracts from the piece.

Princeton University Ballet is a company composed of extremely talented dancers, and each would be a strong soloist on his or her own. Unfortunately, this individual strength can sometimes lead to issues with unison in both movement and facial expressions. The lines that each dancer makes are gorgeous, but are often unsynchronized.

Despite these small missteps, PUB’s “Spring Production” is a wonderful show that highlights the individual and company-wide growth that PUB has experienced over the years. The production reveals a plethora of utterly beautiful moments — a slow but meaningful shoulder shrug, the sweet surprise of a dancer entering through the audience, a perfectly in sync clap of a tambourine. Princeton University Ballet’s “Spring Production” does not always click, but when it does, it is magical.

4 out of 5 paws

Pros: Incredible choreography; strong individual dancers; men’s solos

Cons: Inconsistent performance quality; synchronization issues

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