Review: Sacramento Ballet raises the bar (platform) with 'Carmina Burana' Special

Posted Mar 28, 2014 by W. Mark Dendy
The Mar. 27th opening night performance of the Sacramento Ballet's “Carmina Burana” was nothing short of a mind-blowing, mind-altering, jaw-dropping display of movement, physicality, beauty, color, talent, and finally tuned choreography.
“Carmina Burana” originated in the 11th and 12th centuries — a medieval manuscript consisting of 254 poems and dramatic texts written by clergy, but far from the puritan thoughts one might expect to be scribed by monks and priests.
Last night, a near packed theater witnessed an interpretation of 24 of those poems originally set to music by Carl Orff by the world-class Sacramento Ballet compliments of the Sacramento Ballet's incredibly creative artistic duo, Ron Cunningham and Carrine Binda.
The performance began with a prologue, and the graceful, beautiful Isha Lloyd appeared amidst a spectacular display of light and fog, hoisted on a round, silver platform by roughly half the troupe while the others moved around the central figure methodically in a display of reverence. Lloyd, who retired last Fall as a seven-year veteran professional ballerina, appeared to be right at home elevated high above the stage.
Lloyd, a mountain climber and a pilates instructor, was surefooted as she moved about her perch as the character “Fortuna,” the empress of the world. The fair skinned Montana native's physique, revealed by her silver adorned white leotard, illustrated the dedication and fitness that is the norm for members of the Sacramento Ballet.
A bright spotlight from above lit the Empress, while beams of warm light illuminated the troupe, the red hued rays piercing through the fog to reveal the raw beauty of the human forms, in their minimalist costumes; men bare chested with pastel briefs and the females wore pastel leotards.
This powerful intro set the stage for the three acts that followed: the freshness of spring, life in the tavern, and of course, the ups and downs of romance.
The freshness of spring was brought on with Rick Porter's and Ava Chatterson's abilities both alone and paired through their fluid and precise movements. Stefan Calka's manly persona was coupled with Kaori Higashiyama's gracefulness in dance symbolic of opposite's attractions.
And then “Behold the Spring” bounced onto the stage through the likeness of the illustrious Christopher Nachtrab, a veteran dancer with a seemingly endless supply of energy, and Lauryn Winterhalder, a dancer that moves like a butterfly.
From the Sacramento Ballet s Carmina Burana
From the Sacramento Ballet's Carmina Burana
But it was Richard Smith's witty performance and superb dancing as he chose Maggie Rupp, the girl with an infectious smile, as his blossom of choice from a handful or beauties that commanded the audience take notice.
The second act was a raucous display of drinking and tale-telling among the male dancers with Calka and Nachtrab leading the others in the revelry.
Julia Feldman was the only female dancer to appear in Act II. Her role in “I once was a beautiful swan...” was portrayed as she dangled from three lances nestled on the shoulders of three year veteran, Alexander Bieber, and apprentices Iver Johnson, and Jarret Reimers. The scene appeared about midway through the performance and veered the audience back to the hedonistic and licentious tone set in the prologue.
The final Act opened with Smith and his blossom, Rupp, performing a more sensual duet than earlier, again captivating the crowd. The remaining scenes featured Calka and Higashiyama giving and taking from each other in a display of sensuality that resembled both love and lust.
Throughout Act III, tension swelled as the orchestra, chorus, and dancers crescendo to the return of “Fortuna,” the Empress of the world.
This show is without a doubt, a top find in the world of the performing arts. With 100 choral participants on stage, solos by baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, tenor Robert Vann, and Soprano Ronit Widmann-Levy, the orchestra in the pit conducted by Henrik Jul Hansen, and the highly talented Sacramento Ballet under the grand direction of Ron Cunningham and Carrine Binda, the show was bound to be none other than briliant, mesmerizing, and spectacular.
There are three more performances of this incredible show:
Mar. 28 and 29, 7:30 p.m.
Mar. 30, 2:00 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased on-line or at the Sacramento Community Center Theater.The Sacramento Ballet's "Carmina Burana" is a solid 5-Star performance.