The Kansas City Ballet’s 55th season is going out with a bang.
The final program features three distinct sections that are very different, but have a uniting theme of jazz and sass.
The evening opens with the world premiere of Karole Armitage’s “Energy Made Visible,” featuring music composed and performed by legendary jazz saxophonist, Bobby Watson.
Next up is the Kansas City Premiere of Margo Sappington’s “Common People,” featuring the voice of actor, William Shatner to music composed by Ben Folds.
The program finishes with the return of Donald McKayle’s, “Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City.”
“Energy Made Visible” is a collaboration with French filmmaker Gilles Papain, lighting designer, Kirk Bookman and composer/performer, Bobby Watson. It draws inspiration from paintings by artist, Jackson Pollock.
A “canvas” is projected onto the wall and, as the dance progresses, so do elements of the painting. An interesting use of mirrors hung from the ceiling adds depth and dimension to the stage.
Watson performs right on stage with his sax, playing along with recordings of his solo saxophone compositions.
All of the elements come together to make a very interactive feeling dance experience.
“Common People” stole the show for me. Everything you think you know about what ballet is and how it should tell a story, can be thrown out the window.
This program appeals to both visual and auditory learners by telling a story through dance, poetry and song. Shatner wrote and performed all the poetry he scats out to the music written and performed by Folds.
It leaves much less up for interpretation when there are words explaining the dance. And Fold’s unique musical style appeals to the younger generation.
The dance is fun and funky and the lighting accentuates the great choreography. The set design is modern and mostly plain – a few cafe tables and chairs and a large ladder. The rest of the magic happens with colorful lights.
It was even the subject of a feature-length documentary in 2009 called “Gonzo Ballet.”
“Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City” celebrates the golden age of jazz, nightclubs and dance halls when Kansas City was considered the ‘Paris of the Plains.’ It features recordings by jazz greats Mary Lou Williams, Charlie Parker and Count Basie.
The costumes combined with the hoppin’ dances definitely make the audience consider what it might have been like to live back in those days.
This Spring Program also marks the 17th and final season with William Whitener as Artistic Director of Kansas City Ballet.
“I am pleased to present a program with three American choreographers who have each made enormous contributions to the field of dance,” Mr. Whitener said in a press release. “These three artists have previously worked with our company and have engaged and challenged our audiences and artists. The choreographic selections represent our commitment to new works that enliven and refresh our ongoing repertory.”
The Spring Program is a wonderful evening of dance and artistic expression. Makes plans to see a performance soon. There are only three left.
Tickets are available by calling the Ballet Box Office at 816-931-2232 or online at www.kcballet.org where patrons may “select their own seats.”
Fri., May 3 7:30 p.m.
Sat., May 4 7:30 p.m.
Sun., May 5 2:00 p.m.
Fri., May 10 7:30 p.m.
Sat., May 11 7:30 p.m.
Sun., May 12 2:00 p.m.