nytheatre.com review by Roger Nasser
August 15, 2008
O! Balletto is a very whimsical and interesting dance piece. O! Balletto is a monologue, a conversation, and an etiquette lesson all rolled into one. The only spoken words in the show come in the form of a monologue that is from the text Noblita di Dame by Ballet Master Fabritio Caroso of Semoneta. Noblita di Dame was published in 1600 and is basically concerned with court etiquette and how to act while dancing and while not dancing. This late Renaissance "How To" is where most of the action in the play comes from. The story is also told in the form of dance. And the two balance each other very well.
Lane & Co. do a great job with this piece. The actor and dancers are extremely talented. The cast is led by Tobias Wildman Burns who is fantastic as Caroso. Burns has great poise and diction. He is extremely engaging and I loved the many ways he interacted with the dancers. One moment he'll be correcting a stance or moving a hand here or there in a way that is both playful and at times chastising. Burns handles the text amazingly. There is a part of perhaps madness where Burns repeats the same text over and over while the dancers make the same movements over and over that is magical.
The dancers in the piece are also quite poised and fluid. They portray either members of the court or servants. The dancers that are part of the court are Billy Blanken, Quincy A. Junior, Jolina Isabel Javier, Joy Voelker, and Hana Ginsburg. The servants are Alexis Arak, Raleigh Veach, and Ryan Leveille. They are all terrific. They tell a great deal of the story with their dances and movements. I loved the way that the court members are more classical in their style while the servants are more modern. There are slight flirtations that come up between characters that are really fun to watch. I especially loved the subplot of forbidden love between the classes. Ginsburg and Levielle are stand outs. Throughout the piece you can see their budding attraction and the tension between them building. They bring poetry to their movements and it is absolutely beautiful.
The progression of the story is also aided by the lights and music. The lighting design is well thought out and is supplied by Solomon Weisbard. The music is by Arcangelo Corelli, with additional compositions and secondary score by Neil Alexander. Alexander does a commendable job with the music.
Lane Gifford does a truly amazing job as choreographer. I really loved her style, mixing classical and modern dance. Gifford has brought forth a thought-provoking and entertaining piece that is a pleasure to watch. I also liked her concept, too. I look forward to seeing more of her work. Lane & Co is a dance company that we should all keep an eye on. I hope they have many successes with their dance theatre works. They are also a New York-based dance company so if you are a local you should definitely check them out.