By Victoria L. Dammer
Last weekend, the New Jersey Ballet closed out its epic 2022-2023 season with the splendid performance Spring Forward at the Morristown Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown, New Jersey.
Maria Kowroski, the Artistic Director advancing the company in a new direction, opened the show with a heartwarming tribute to one of their former dancers, Gabrielle Noa-Abbate. Next, Kowroski thanked the staff, the volunteers, and the dedicated dancers who make New Jersey Ballet the formidable resident ballet company of the MPAC.
The performance opened with Purcell Suite, music by 17th century Baroque English composer Henry Purcell, who integrated Italian and French styles into his art. The audience will recall New Jersey Ballet performed sections of Purcell Suite in November 2022 to an enthusiastic crowd.
The nine pieces of the suite started with Dido and Aeneas/Act 1 -Overture and ended with When I am Laid in Earth, accompanied by a recording by Leontyne Price. Harpsichords and cellos predominately starred in the music. Harrison Ball choreographed the performances. This section of the production was his first choreographic commission, which was visually mesmerizing, and the dancers wore long, flowing black gowns that rose and fell like clouds, designed by internationally famous designer Zac Posen.
After a brief intermission, dancer Catherine Whiting, dressed in a traditional turquoise tutu, and danseur Akira Iida, dressed in a turquoise toga, lit the stage with their performance of Spring Waters. This duo was exciting; their devotion to perfecting the craft of ballet was apparent. Their fantastic talent was in view during the presentation, with Whiting flying into Iida’s arms, choreographed by Asaf Messerer, music by Sergei Rachmaninov, and costumes by Paul H. McRae.
Overall, the best duo dance of the evening was Denise Parungao and Joshuan Vazquez, dressed in black, entangled in the sensual performance of This Bitter Earth. The music, written by Max Richter and Clyde Otis for the motion picture Shutter Island, was accompanied by a recording by Dinah Washington. The expert touch of Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, who trained at The Royal Ballet School and was a soloist at the New York City Ballet, was displayed throughout the staging.
More traditional ballet followed, with a performance by Risa Mochizuki and Akira Iida, dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Pas de Deux. Choreographed by George Balanchine with music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky, theatergoers were absorbed with each of Mochizuki and Iida’s solo performances throughout this act.
After another short intermission, attendees were entranced with Not Our Fate, choreographed by Lauren Lovette, the Clive Barnes Award for dance performer traveling worldwide as a principal guest dancer. Her magnificent gift for dance and choreography played throughout this piece, from a slow rhythmic start to an almost maniacal crescendo. Peggy Casey dressed all participants in white and black, with dancers in stunning handkerchief skirts designed initially by Oscar de la Renta and Monse.
With seamless changes and intertwining of partners, the eye-catching dance was astonishing, with an abrupt end to the dance and the music, which brought about a resounding standing ovation from the audience.
New Jersey Ballet is the new style of ballet, thanks to the tutelage and forward-thinking guidance of Maria Kowroski. All should look forward to an outstanding 2023-2024 season sure to please lovers of traditional ballet and those open to Kowroski’s vision.
The Mayo Performing Arts Center presents Spring Forward by the New Jersey Ballet.
New Jersey Ballet Artistic Director Maria Kowroski; Assistant Director Paul McRae; Managing Director David Tamaki; Artistic Coordinator Kotoe Kojima-Noa; School Administrator Toni Ann Auriemma; Production Manager Brian Coakley; Stage Manager Alisa Rabin; Lighting Jesse Campbell; Wardrobe Peggy Casey; Assistant Stage Manager Emily Grader; repertory coaches Leigh-Ann Esty and Rosemary Sabovick-Bleich.
The company includes Emily Barrows, Rebekka Dizdar, Da’ Von Doane, Lilli Etheredge, Yuiko Honda, Akira Iida, Se Hyun Jin, Ilse Kapteyn, David Lopena, Raleigh Ledford, Forest Rain Oliveros, Risa Mochizuki, Denise Parungao, Gustavo Ribeiro, Abigail Robison, Erick Rojas, Raynor Rubel, Eunice Saba, Felipe Valentini, Joshua Vazquez, and Catherine Whiting.
The Mayo Performing Art Center, 100 South Street, Morristown NJ 07960.
Tickets to events are available at The Official Ticketing Site of Mayo Performing Arts Center | Mayo Performing Arts Center (mayoarts.org)