Reviews - USA

Atlanta Ballet – Carmina Burana

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Atlanta GA
April 12, 2013

By Deborah Searle.

In their second to last program of the season, Atlanta Ballet presented David Bintley’s Carmina Burana along with an opening flurry of color in Helen Pickett’s Petal. The two works, although both being quite contemporary, had nothing else in common and were an odd match for a program.

The flow of the evening was a little strange, with the show opening with a projected video interview with David Bintley about his version of Carmina Burana. It was insightful, but it was then followed by Pickett’s Petal and an intermission before we were presented with Carmina Burana. It would have been more fitting to play the video after intermission to directly precede Carmina Burana.

Petal is a light, airy and striking work. The gorgeous music by Philip Glass and Montgomery Newman is complemented well by the exquisite dancing. It was a great choice for a spring performance with bright color and flowing, effortless dancing. It has a beauty, energy and innocence about it, like new life in the spring time. The pas de deux work is daring and performed weightlessly. The ballet has a breezy, whimsical feeling, but it is a little too flighty and rushed at times.

Atlanta Ballet

Atlanta Ballet presents David Bintley’s ‘Carmina Burana’. Photo by Charlie McCullers.

The stage is set up like a large white box, with white curtains on the side of the stage, bringing in the wings. This white box has hues of yellow, orange and pink shone on it, lighting up the stage with spring color. The simple and stark stage is fresh and clean and it allows us to just focus on the dancing, but it is also unforgiving, with nothing to distract from the dancers when not completely in sync. Unfortunately, it showed that the dancers weren’t always perfectly in time with each other or executing movements with the same clarity.

That said, the dancers were all stunning and they suited the movement well. Petal is a lovely ballet and was a nice opener, although it didn’t suit being presented with Bintley’s Carmina Burana, which in opposition is so dramatic and dark.

Bintley’s Carmina Burana is an entertaining theatrical spectacular. The backdrops, costumes, lighting, music and not to mention dancing, are all dramatic. The music by Carl Orff is stunning, and being presented by the young singers of Georgia State University and Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, it was brought to life and a performance in its own right. The vocalists were brilliant and the live music really added to the experience.

The ballet was extremely comical at times, but also sultry and passionate.  The subject matter of three seminarians rejecting their faith to explore lust, love, greed and gluttony was interesting, although I personally found it a little disturbing and dark. There were fun, fabulous moments including chairs used to mimic horses, a huge roast swan danced gorgeously by the talented Tara Lee, pregnant dancing ladies and crazy clown-like obese men. There were some stunning lifts and powerful, dramatic moments with an engaging juxtaposition of humorous and serious, light and dark.

Carmina Burana was executed well by Atlanta Ballet, with each dancer embracing his or her character and dancing with commitment and strength, but I personally didn’t like the subject matter. Some of the costume choices were also questionable, including grey body suits with genitalia drawn on them. Although Bintley is definitely a clever story teller and accomplished choreographer, I didn’t really enjoy this ballet.

Photo (top): Atlanta Ballet’s Rachel Van Buskirk and Jonah Hooper in David Bintley’s Carmina Burana. Photo by Charlie McCullers.

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