REVIEW: Dancers set stage in Mystic

Red carpets, toasts and good cheer prevailed at the Mystic Ballet's Grand Opening Gala Saturday night at the Mystic Stage in Olde Mistick Village Art Cinemas, where the company has opened up a performance space.

Founded by Goran and Desiree Subotic, Mystic Ballet premiered modern ballet dances from a group of young and upcoming choreographers. The evening showcased 10 dancers from the company who hail from around the world and one choreographer, Gabrielle Lamb, who danced in her duet.

Lamb paired with Aleksander Subotic for her haunting work titled "Transit of Venus." The brief piece was a glimpse into something tantalizing, dreamily executed as if a mirage. The two dancers, both lean, tall and sinewy, were well-paired.

In his complex work "Periscope Up!" Sergei Vanaev deployed a group of four male dancers dressed in sailors' white with a lone female in a blue and white polka dot dress with accents of red. At times the sailors danced as revelers; at others, they clearly fell into line, as if on duty. The music was an intriguing mix of styles - set to music by Tom Waits, which encompassed modern techno to a hip hop beat to jazz. The ballet paused for more ethereal moments of longing with some Chopin sprinkled in. Yet the thematic core of the dance - the dynamic of a group and how interludes (romantic and otherwise) can mutate that spirit - were what kept the piece intriguing and cohesive. The male dancers were exceptional, executing some powerhouse moves and precise timing.

"Sun and Steel," a piece by Lauren Edson, featured eight dancers. The dance was one of finely constructed beauty and serenity, which was at times thrust into tension. Yet, the work blended the two dichotomies with a harmony that inspired Edson - the belief by Japanese author Yukio Mishima that Japanese culture contains both beauty and brutality. The dance unfolded in a surreal landscape where the breadth of human emotion - the sublime and the raw - blossomed.

The evening also included another piece by Lamb, "Marooned," in which six dancers inhabited a quirky, off-kilter world, moving about stage almost like a sculptural entity that could work in unison, be broken into bits, or into various duets.

A live performance by The Connecticut Virtuosi String Quartet during the fine modern ballet by Brian Enos, "Autumn Quartet," was the treat of the evening. Two couples danced duets in this classically boned piece, punctuated by some high, sweeping lifts and regal extensions.

Soprano Jurate Svediate performed three arias with Connecticut Lyric Opera, showcasing her clear, soaring voice. This is the type of collaboration, Goran Subotic told the audience, that the Mystic Ballet would continue to produce.

An audience favorite was another work by Brian Enos, "The Hodgepodge Hustle." This work was danced by two couples, who burst onto stage in costumes harking from the unrestrained 1960s. The women wore flowered mini-dresses with headbands and long sleeves. One man had a peace sign emblazoned on the back of his jacket and the last was out of step. This character was a nerd, outfitted in glasses, suspenders, "high-water" pants and a bow tie. While the ballet leaned more classical with lifts, heights and line, as did the other Enos work, this one also incorporated a story vignette woven through the piece.

"The Hodgepodge Hustle" ended the night on a high note, the crowd enthusiastic about the modern ballet company, whose evolution can be traced back 20 years, when the Subotics settled in Mystic. Mystic Stage is one of its performing venues for the 2012 season. The works premiered at the gala will be performed in their G.R.A.B. series, Oct. 6 and 13, at the Mystic Stage. For more information, visit www.mysticballet.org.

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