Woodlands Symphony Blends Music and Dance

It almost seems there is no end to the creative ways which Woodlands Symphony Orchestra Director, Dagang Chen, can find to directly involve The Woodlands community in the symphonic experience. Last Sunday’s tribute to legendary choreographer, George Balanchine, was no exception to that rule.

Titled a “Salute to Balanchine,” the concert was presented at the Nancy Bock Center for Performing Arts. The program opened with a work by Sibelius. Performed by the orchestra with rich, romantic delicacy, the piece was aptly named, “Romance-Opus 42,” and under Chen’s skillful baton it ended in a symphonic whisper.

Then began the unique portion of the program wherein Chen invited area students of ballet to participate by providing dances to accompany the orchestral selections. The nearly one hundred talented participants were students of Boni’s Dance and Performing Arts Studio, where Bonnie Schuetz is Executive Director. In addition to the work of many fine Boni’s choreographers, several of the dances where choreographed by Dina Vail, who has the distinction of having studied directly under one of Balanchine’s early protégés. The first offering was Edvard Grieg’s “Two Melodies – Norwegian,” and featured eight young ladies in lovely white and gold costumes. Their delightful dancing sparkled as much as their silver tiaras and beaming smiles. Next came “Allegro from Symphony in A” by Fasch. This featured a refreshing younger group of dancers, but they exhibited no less joy and enthusiasm for their art. During “Allegro from String Quartet in D Major,” by Donizetti, two of the older dancers gracefully led some of the younger ballerinas in a soothing routine that was as delicate as the slow-motion opening of a flower. During the “Canon,” by Pachelbel, there were many charming and well-executed dance variations from some of the school’s more mature dancers. As the first half of the program came to a close, audience member Ruthellen Hinton was delighted to see five of her Knox Junior High School students among those performing with charm and grace during Grieg’s “Two Melodies – First Meeting.”

Beginning with Dvorak’s “Notturno in B Major,” the program’s second half began with more of Chen’s ever-smooth direction, and a deeply resonant elegance was the response from his talented musicians. On this Sunday afternoon I was reminded of peaceful musical Sunday’s of years gone by when maestro Arturo Toscanini would lead the NBC Orchestra to the delight of early television viewers.

The dancers returned during Dvorak’s “Serenade in E (mov.3).”  The dancing was as briskly joyful as the music; and with great ensemble unity, a dozen talented ballerinas presented a pleasant parade of pirouettes. Then came the delightfully romantic pairing of Blair Schuetz and Cheyenne Schanta. With a lovely touch of waltzing, they performed to the gently paced “Canzonetta” of Sibelius. The next group wore beautiful and traditional white ballet costumes during the “Fuge from Symphony in G,” by Fasch. They closed their charming dance with the loveliest of tableaus. Then, during Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings Waltz,” the large ensemble showed how to beautifully blend the talents of various age groups. A quintet of the company’s finest dancers were dressed in dramatic emerald sequins and green-black and rose colors for the afternoon’s finale, Dvorak’s “Serenade in E (Mov. 1).” Their many dance skills were on beautiful display as the wonderful orchestra provided yet another rich symphonic accompaniment. I found myself hoping that maestro Chen will consider making this delicious collaboration an annual event.

(The Courier    3.1.04)

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About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
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