Two of TWB’s most senior artists, TWB artists Sona Kharatian and Tamás Krizsa, perform a new work created for them on the occasion of their retirement. The performances on June 22-26 were their last as Company members. Both will join the TWB Artistic Staff. Photo by xmb Photography for The Washington Ballet.
The Washington Ballet performs new dances with old memories.
Watching one of the last Washington Ballet’s (TWB’s) performances of “Moonlight” at the Sidney Harman Hall brought a flood of memories. It marked the final performance and retirement of TWB stars Tamás Krizsa (who choreographed the duet) and Sona Kharatian. And what sweet memories we share of these two amazing artists.
Sona and I go back 20 years when she first joined the company under the direction of Septime Webre who created wildly sexy dances for her gorgeous body—a siren in red in the role of Myrtle Wilson, the married lover of Tom Buchanan in Webre’s rendition of “The Great Gatsby.” Alone on stage or with a partner who is sensitive to her sinuous moves, Kharatian mesmerizes an audience no matter the technique nor the style of dance. She’s pure and cerebral in the ballet classics and strong and sultry in modern works.
‘NEXTsteps’ supports the evolution of ballet and the dancer and celebrates the evolving beauty and resonating power of the art.
In “Moonlight,” she wore bright yellow and was lifted high above Krizsa’s strong shoulders, as if he were raising her high to the heavens. I first wrote about his joyful dancing—Krizsa always aiming to please on stage and off—during a trip to Turkey where The Washington Ballet performed. What impressed this writer was his politeness and camaraderie with other performers—no upstaging by this handsome Hungarian ballet dancer.
His caring about his partner was obvious in his “Moonlight” duet. It is such a beautiful piece, and romantic, too. As always, Krizsa took that step behind his ballerina (he designed the costumes, too), making sure she got the first bow.
Certainly Mthuthuzeli November needs another look. He is a serious artist with roots in South Africa, whose “Where Do We Go Now?” stirred up a lot of feelings—some spiritual, some everyday thoughts. With his homeland drumming and earth-colored costumes designed by the choreographer, “Where Do We Go Now?” featured a dozen dancers coming together at times, then hanging back as if there were decisions to be made. I loved the program notes, “What would it feel like to enter the gates of Heaven, to come face to face with my ancestors?” My guess is that November and his dancers would be welcome with open arms.
New York City-based Jessica Lang is one of the most sought-after choreographers of original works by companies worldwide. Lang, who trained with Twyla Tharp and Company, created a spectacular opening dance for The Washington Ballet. “Beethoven Serenade” is reminiscent of George Balanchine’s “Serenade” with its familiar hand gestures and exuberant dancing. But this piece went further with its joyousness and gestures. The ballerinas were dressed in white, with men in brownish robes, dancing to Beethoven’s familiar score which was performed by a string trio—Ko Sugiyama, violin; Allyson Goodman, viola; and Charlie Powers, cello.
Championing the relevance and advancement of dance in the 21st century, “NEXTsteps” supports the evolution of ballet and the dancer and celebrates the evolving beauty and resonating power of the art. With works by Brett Ishida, Jessica Lang, and Mthuthuzeli November, energy and inspiration definitely bounded from the studio, to the Harman Hall stage, and into the audience. The idea behind new ballets created just for The Washington Ballet by emerging choreographers reflects the voices of our time and will be heard again during the 2022-23 season which opens on October 12-16, 2022 at the Sidney Harmon Hall.
Stretching the boundaries of modern ballet, “NEXTsteps” continues with fresh works created by visionaries Dana Genshaft (TWB’s “Orpheus” and “Shadowlands)” and Silas Farley from the New York City Ballet. The annual series showcases groundbreaking pieces from genre-bending choreographers including The Washington Ballet’s own Andile Ndlovu as he features a brand-new, commissioned work following his highly lauded “B1” (“Be One”), a celebration of human unity. The Opening Night Celebration with a Champagne Station at intermission and after-party to launch the new season is scheduled for Thursday, October 13, 2022.
Brett Ishida’s company debut of goosebumps-rising “home-coming” should be seen again and again. At last Saturday’s performance, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Maki Onuki, who seemed surprised that she received flowers at the end of the ballet. Why not? She’s a prima ballerina and can do anything a choreographer requests. For this haunting piece, the dancers gathered in circles while a solo dancer performed downstage left, then fell to the floor with only a few gestures to remind us that she was either hallucinating or dreaming of better times.
When the male dancers ripped off their shirts and the women disrobed, leaving them in only black-laced leotards, we all took notice.The program notes the choreographer’s grandmother recounted memories of her late husband who was re-located in a Japanese camp during World War II. I saw a different dream of a lost lover who comes back into her arms. Brian Jones’ lighting design worked magic in all the dances.
Running Time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission and one pause.
The Washington Ballet’s “NEXTsteps” ran June 22-26, 2022 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004.
“An Evening With The Washington Ballet” with the Wolf Trap Orchestra will be presented at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap on Wednesday, September 14, 2022. The program includes “Serenade” by George Balanchine, “Werner Sonata” by Silas Farley (originally filmed at Wolf Trap), Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” and “B1″ by Andile Ndlovu, with music by Ape Chimba.