The Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center played host to Washington Ballet’s performance this past weekend. The company, under the leadership of Artistic Director Septime Webre, was aiming to please with its season-opening bill of Serenade, Carmen and Nine Sinatra Songs.
The Thursday night performance unfolded like a delicious three-course meal. George Balanchine’s Serenade, a ballet staple among American companies, was first on the program. As the appetizer, it was something light and familiar. The piece conjures all the images normally associated with ballet – flowing white costumes, delicate lighting, synchronized movement-a fluid Tchaikovsky score. Brianne Bland was technically stunning as one of the soloists, and the corps members provided her with a beautiful compliment with their dancing. The corps also made the intricate and challenging formations of Balanchine choreography striking.
Carmen was a robust triumph. Every nuance from the set to the attitude and carriage of the dancers displayed invoke the spirit of Spain. Webre’s original choreography was set in an exciting bull-fighting motif. Michele Jimenez danced the lead role with fire and passion. She brings a star quality to her role that is priceless to any company. From her entrance to the last minute of the ballet, you just could not take your eyes off her. Jonathan Jordan, portraying the Toreador wooing Carmen, was equally sexy and danced superbly. The tavern scene featured heart-racing flamenco dancing full of sex appeal which showed-off the versatility of the company. Carmen was a juicy, exhilarating, main feature.
A sweet ending to the night was Nine Sinatra Songs choreographed by Twyla Tharp. With a large disco ball that descended from the top of the stage, there was an air of classy nostalgia. The piece featured couples decked out in Oscar de la Renta dancing to the smooth sounds of Sinatra. Each couple and dance had a distinct attitude and feel that fit perfectly with each song. Erin Mahoney-Du and Luis Torres danced a hilarious pas de deux to “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” as two drunken lovers leaving a bar. Tharp’s choreography was witty and charismatic that left the entire audience smiling.
The Washington Ballet has been praised for its versatility, athleticism and artistry. The night definitely proved all those things. One of artistic director Webre’s goals is to make his company more appealing to younger viewers. With a program like this, he shouldn’t have any problems doing so for the rest of the Washington Ballet’s season.