Indy’s Very Own Ballet Company Closes Its Inaugural Season with a Production of Shakespeare’s Famous Fantasy
Did you know that Naptown has its own ballet company? If you didn’t, then get your act together and your ear to the ground, because Indianapolis Ballet is on the scene. While they might be a new addition to the arts scene of our far city, they’re not half bad. Especially if their performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was any indication of what we can expect from future productions.
Established as an outgrowth of the Indianapolis School of Ballet, Indianapolis Ballet is the first professional ballet company to reside in Indy in a decade. Debuting back in February, they’ve wasted no time building a following among Naptown’s culture vultures.
Now that their first season has drawn to a close, Indianapolis Ballet is busily preparing for their next season.
Calling A Midsummer Night’s Dream a classic is a bit like calling the Mona Lisa a nice picture. As with many of Shakespeare’s works, the play has ascended to almost mythic status, acting as the model for thousands of works that came after. Now, the story’s pretty well-known, so we won’t bother with a summery.
One thing to get out of the way immediately. Good though Indianapolis Ballet is, it ain’t the Bolshoi, this performance is mostly in the realm of “pretty good”. Still, it’s more than worth the price of admission and strong start for a new company.
So, the dance and choreography are all good. Each dancer knows how to express their characters, even if the comedic nature of the performance eschews subtlety in favor of vaudeville. Now, because they tell the story in a very compressed form, each dancer gets only a few moments to establish their character. Given the way their characters are likewise simplified, they don’t have much to work with. However, this is where the choreography steps in, so to speak. How the characters move tells you a lot about them. The peasants, for example, folk dance onto the stage with a rustic plod, obviously roaring drunk. By contrast the fairies flutter and flitter about the stage like gravity has nothing to do with them. The point is, the dancers are able to do what they need to do even with the bare minimum. No small feat.
In particular visiting artist Shae Johnson does a great job of portraying Oberon, wonderfully conveying the fairy monarch’s arrogance and spite along with ability to mitigate himself when he realizes he’s gone too far. Oberon’s grand, sweeping gestures and contrastingly rigid posture establish him as king of his domain. Well, of the parts of his domain that aren’t actually Titania’s, anyway.
However, the true stand out performance is Christopher Lingner’s Puck. Strikingly, Puck’s dance is almost always out of sync with the other performers. Where everyone is tight yet graceful, puck is loose and haphazard. Moreover, since his sense of mischief drives most of the plot, we spend an awful lot of time getting to know him. Shakespeare’s original troll.
Otherwise, there isn’t much to say. The scenery was minimal, since we’re supposed to be concentrating on the dancers anyway, and the costumes were up to par but not particularly memorable.
Hopefully, Indy’s own ballet company keeps on going. They definitely have potential, and we could always use another prestige institution. Plus, let’s face it, ballet is fun and we all could use a little more of that in our lives.
Keep listening everybody.