Saturday, October 23, 1999
Spooky Tales' is uneven, not very scary
BY CAROL NORRIS
Driving down to the Aronoff Center Friday, I noticed the nearly full moon hanging low in the sky. A few wispy clouds blew in front of it, the way they always do in those old werewolf movies. It seemed an omen that something scary was about to happen, considering I was headed for Cincinnati Ballet's opening of Spooky Tales.
Turns out the evening was full of fine dancing, but no frights to keep you up nights.
There were four one-acts on the program Belling the Slayer, Aria, Bow Out and Treats & Tricks, with Kirk Peterson's Belling billed to make the goose bumps rise.
The premise is nifty: Six women tie bells to the slayer to let his victim know he's out to get her. The continual bell ringing emphasized in the Jerry Goldsmith score (played fearlessly by Carmon DeLeone's Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra) gave the ballet an ominous feel, but the most alarming thing that happens is that the slayer dances the poor girl to death. Or that's how it looks in what has to be one of the longest pas de deux on record.
Don't get me wrong; there was some very nice dancing. Leah Elzner threw herself into the role of the young victim with abandon, velvety smooth in her final surrender. It just wasn't scary.
The best performances happened in Val Caniparoli's works, Aria and Bow Out, which shows if you give this company something meaty to do, they take off and fly.
Alexei Kremnev danced Aria, to the lovely voice of soprano Cecily Nall singing Lascia Ch'io Pianga from Handel's opera Rinaldo. He danced with passionate artistry, the movement of his arms and torso exquisite as he enveloped the space. It's hard to imagine anyone else pulling this solo off which is probably why he's doing it all four performances.
Anna Reznik, Rene Micheo, Meridith Benson, Quillan Nagel, Kristi Capps, Jay Goodlett, Joy Detherage and Michael Wardlaw brought Cincinnati Ballet dancing to a new plane in Bow Out.
The music of the Apollo Saxophone Quartet (taped) reminds one of Phillip Glass. It is an amazing work, amazingly danced, sexy and driving, cool and exciting. The audience (1,700) loved it, and kept the curtain calls coming.
Dennis Poole's Treats & Tricks couldn't decide whether it was made for little kids or a dance audience. Nearly every Halloween cliche was in it, from pumpkins to witches to good fairies and bad. What was missing was a point to all of it.
There were many missed opportunities for some real fun. Madcap Puppets provided fabulous-looking monsters and creatures, but when three of them were featured as a do-wop backup, they did little more than mill around. There was a perfectly spooky coffin onstage at one point, but nothing was made of it. The Pumpkin Patch Polka begged for some real silliness. Mr. Poole seems unwilling, or unable, to get wacky enough on the kiddie themes.
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