Review: New York Baroque Dance Company | Dallas Bach Society | Caruth Auditorium from http://www.theaterjones.com/
Having a Ball, The New York Baroque Dance Company turns contrast into drama with the Dallas Bach Society.
by Margaret Putnam
published Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Dallas — When the music is sublime and the poetry achingly beautiful, should not the ballet shimmer forth on gilded slippers? You would think so. But when The Dallas Bach Society teamed with The New York Baroque Dance Company to perform Monteverdi’s “Il Ballo delle Ingrate,” the composer had something difference in mind; namely, that contrast makes for better drama.
The show was all Claudio Monteverdi, and what a range of mood and style his Madrigals — Book VIII offered. The music was intense, delicate, touching and agitated, much of it inspired by the poetry of Petrarch, Rinuccini and Torquato Tasso.
The program Friday night at Caruth Auditorium focused on four of the 22 sections of Book VIII, the first three dealing with war, and the last (Il Ballo delle Ingrate) with love.
War gets the first shot. “Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda” reveals a fierce warrior maiden (Clorinda), defending the forces of Islam against the Crusaders. Her antagonist is Tancredi, who has no idea she is a woman, much less that he has long been in love with her. The two square off at a distance, circle, size each other up, and then go at it again and again. Clorinda (Alexis Silver) is tiny, in blue helmet and plume and gold tunic; Tancredi (Matthew Buffalo) towers over her in huge black helmet and plume and black and red tunic. At one point, he kneels in prayer, as though to seek advice, while she stands motionless far away.
The movement is slow and stylized, something like that of Japanese kabuki, where every gesture is enlarged and repeated. Eventually, the sword must come down on one of them, and it is on Clorinda. Tancredi slowly removes his helmet, and cradling the dying Clorinda, removes her helmet to discover to his dismay her real identity. They look into each other’s eyes; she forgives him, and in one last embrace, dies in his arms.
Their plight is sung with anguished and sometimes plaintive fervor by Fabiana Gonzalez (Clorinda), Nicolas Garza (Tancredi) and Patrick Gnage (Testo), giving the dance even more poignancy.
Although “Il Ballo delle Ingrate” falls into the category of love in the last section of Monteverdi’s Book VIII, anti-love would be more like it. The work was first performed as part of the wedding celebrations for Margaret of Savoy and Francesco Gonzaga, son of Monteverdi’s patron the Duke Vincenzo of Mantua. If your notion of baroque dance calls for grace embellished with ornate hand gestures and tilting heads, you are in for a surprise. “Il Ballo” is everything but graceful, for it depicts four women who had scorned love and marriage, and pay for it later when Venus and Cupid complain of them to Pluto, King of the Underworld. They are brought back from the Underworld to teach a lesson to the audience.
The four ingrates (Glenda Norcross, Valerie Shelton-Tabor, Ms. Silver and Catherine Turocy), with their bizarre headpieces and masks, clad in tight bodices and frayed black and red long skirts, stumble and lurch out of the darkness into sunlight. Timid and bewildered, they first hold hands for support. Soon, however, they are slapping, pushing and grabbing, only to give in to grief and dismay.
Supplying yet more drama, the singers representing Amore (Rebecca Beasley), Venus (Ms. Gonzalez) and Pluto (David Grogan) move in and around the miserable lot. At the end, Pluto envelops the cowed women with his huge cape as though to escort them back to the underworld. This short and disturbing tale only needed gloomy red flames and perhaps a lightning bolt to deepen its sense of unease.
◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.