Sacramento Ballet’s ‘Modern Masters’

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You still have two opportunities to catch the Sacramento Ballet’s Modern Masters. This past weekend I attended a performance at the St. Francis High School Arts Complex. The show repeats May 19 at Mondavi Center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre and May 21 at Three Stages at Folsom Lake College.

For me, one highlight of the Modern Masters program was choreographer Viktor Kabaniaev’s Series of Unrelated Events. I marveled at how much material Kabaniaev stuffed into one ballet. Within his coolly intellectual approach, dancers at times moved soullessly, like machines timed to the pulsating electronic music. Yet Kabaniaev used the physicality of individual dancers effectively, too, such as when he had willowy Ava Chatterson cross the stage looking more gangly than graceful. With increasing intensity, the dancers explored themes of conformity versus individuality and isolation amid group settings. At one point, the dancers crowded together and stepped about the stage like a school of sardines at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Dancer Isha Lloyd broke off and set out on her own, only to lose direction, shrug her shoulders and walk off stage. Later, when pointe shoes hurtled onto the stage from the wings, I thought surely I had witnessed Kabaniaev’s one stab at novelty, but I was wrong. As Rex Wheeler leapt around the field of shoes, several women talked—yes, literally talked, one on a cell phone—in close proximity to him without paying him any mind.

As the ballet progressed into its “bloopers” section, dancers depicted increasing levels of pain and injury as they stopped cleaving together in favor of bickering and self-centeredness. One “injured” dancer, Lauryn Winterhalder, even spat something onto the stage. (I’m not going to say what it was; you’ll have to see the ballet.) The humorous yet stark scenes brought to light what can happen when dancers fail to work together. Or is it what can happen when individuals fail to look out for the good of society?