Welcome to fall and a new ballet season

by Rob Tiller

Of the four seasons, fall is my favorite. Finally there’s a break in the hot weather, and the cooler temperatures make it easier to move. Days shorten, leaves change their colors, and migrant birds flock and prepare to move south. Harvest time is at hand. And the new arts season begins.

Our first event of the new arts season was Carolina Ballet’s performance last Friday of a program entitled Firebird. I was sorry to see the there were a good many empty seats. The audience is an important part of a performance. Those of us without dance training have a role to perform — that is, the audience role, absorbing and responding. I always feel like a better person after the ballet, with posture at least temporarily improved.

Why were there empty seats in Fletcher Hall? I do not know. People squander their precious life hours on the most amazingly nonsense yet pass up such richness close at hand. At any rate, those who made it were well rewarded. There were strong new works by Weiss and Bourtasenkov, as well as the repertory masterpiece set to the great Stravinsky score. And of course, the incredibly talented, disciplined, beautiful dancers.

As a Mahler fan, I was especially interested in Weiss’s new Sturmische Liebe, a pas de deux to a Mahler chamber piece with Lara O’Brien and Alain Molina. It was taut and tragic to the danger point, as though the end of love could only mean the end of life. It seemed to draw on the spirit of tango. I admired Lara’s intensity and her total immersion in the character, which was so somber that I briefly forgot it was acting and worried she might be a danger to herself.

I also particularly enjoyed the very different new Weiss piece Moving Life, a non-story to three enigmatic works by Erik Satie. Part of the music, the Gymnopedies, was familiar to me from a marathon performance I helped with years ago, and I went home after the show and ordered the sheet music online from Sheet Music Plus. Peggy Severin Hansen was again magnificent as the Firebird, in many regards birdlike — astonishingly light and quick, yet elegant and powerful.

Sal and I spotted Lola Cooper at the second intermission with a cast on her foot. She greeted us warmly and brought us up to date on her news. She’d had surgery a few weeks before to address a congenital bone problem. She seemed upbeat about the good progress she was making on her rehabilitation. It has to be so difficult for a dancer with such dedication to be sidelined even for a few weeks.

After the performance, Sally and I parted temporarily, she to hunt for her Mini Cooper and I my Clara. There was a street fair on Wilmingstreet called SparkCON. I spent a few minutes watching performers dancing with fire to African drumming. I couldn’t figure out how a flaming hula hoop didn’t case burns. It was fun to see the street performers, and I would have given them a few dollars if they’d asked.