Manassas, VA – The Virginia National Ballet’s spring show featured a trio of brand new performances, featuring a dynamic cast of dancers. In their first full season back after a year long pandemic hiatus, the Ballet came in strong with three very different themes joined together into an exciting, but emotionally moving show. Digital Beat Magazine was thrilled to cover the event.
The performance opened beautifully with “Tango Nights,” a passionate one-act ballet set in an Argentinian Tango bar. It featured three couples and told each pair’s story through a new style of dance created by the Ballet’s award-winning Artistic Director, Rafik Hegab. The style combined neo-classical ballet with tango, creating an exciting new twist that captivated the audience. The musical score, from Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, was a perfect bridge from traditional classical music to a more modern interpretation with an emphasis on jazz.
The show opened on a simple, but elegantly designed Latin bar, complete with a trio of tables and a bartender. The stage had a set of broken window blinds projected onto the back curtain, perfectly completing the scene. The dancers performed one couple at a time, with each pair presenting a unique feel and style to their dance. I absolutely loved the chemistry between the pairs of dancers, who were funny, charming, and wonderfully choreographed. Their stage presence, combined with their comedic abilities, completely drew the audience in. The dance was sprinkled with physical comedy, which was well executed and enjoyable.
Toward the end of the act, the dancers engaged the audience through clapping, which really helped to enforce the feeling of being in present with them in the Latin bar. It was a wonderful way to bridge the gap between performers and the audience. I also particularly enjoyed the use of the bartender, who helped to set the scene without being distracting. His stage presence was just enough without being overbearing.
The costuming was exquisite and textured, with wonderful attention to detail and execution. The details in the set, including the broken slats on the blinds behind the dancers, the posh tablecloths, and the lighting all do a phenomenal job of setting the scene in the bar. The cast for “Tango Nights” included Jose Ailton, Caroline Beard, Henry de Carvalho, Owdrim Kaew, Saaya Pikula Mason, Zoe Segura, and Minghong Xu.
The show transitioned to “The Beatles” for the second act, an exciting, upbeat series of contemporary dances choreographed to hit Beatles songs. In a fun, nostalgic trip for many in the audience, the dancers performed to many of the greatest hits. The act began with “Come Together,” which featured the full company including Jose Ailton, Alison Bartels, Caroline Beard, Kaiya Black, Henry de Carvalho, Zoe Frantz, Emma Kowalchuk, Sophie Paczak, Zoe Segura, and Minghong Xu.
Other songs performed included “Yesterday,” “Girl,” “Something,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Norwegian Wood,” and “Get Back” and “The End.” The costumes for this act were tie-dye shirts and blue jeans for the men, along with 60’s inspired outfits, headbands, and fringed legwarmers for the women. Costuming perfection for this throwback series of dances. The stage was kept bare for this one act debut, with peace signs projected onto the back curtain. Well planned and executed lighting completed the scene.
The show closed with “For Those We Lost,” a touching tribute to the 900,000+ ones lost in America to Covid-19. Featuring the music of Max Richter and Samuel Barber, this act highlighted the emotional toll the world has felt during the difference stages of the pandemic. The stage was simple and somber for this act, and the dancers were clothed in flowing white outfits. Choreographer Rafik Hegab did a phenomenal job delving into the range of emotions all people felt, touching on the isolation during quarantine, the melancholy that grew as the pandemic continued long past what was expected, and the pain of losing loved ones.
The audience was quiet during the final act of the show, caught up in emotion and memories. The dancers appeared almost ethereal on stage, moving solemnly as the contemporary ballet progressed. The choreography was gorgeous and captured the audience’s attention from the beginning. I am sure every person in the audience was able to personally relate to the emotional stages of the pandemic portrayed, as Covid-19 has become a universal experience uniting people throughout the world.
The cast of “For Those We Lost” include Jose Ailton, Alison Bartels, Caroline Beard, Kaiya Black, Henry de Carvalho, Isabella Fernandes, Zoe Frantz, Camila Griggs, Owdrim Kaew, Emma Kowalchuk, Paula Lemus, Saaya Pikula Mason, Sophie Paczak, Zoe Segura, Audrey Updegraff, and Minghong Xu.
For more information about Virginia National Ballet, visit virginianationalballet.org