Dance Revue: ‘NEXTsteps’ presented by the Washington Ballet

Two of TWB’s most experienced artists, TWB artists Sona Kharatian and Tamás Krizsa, perform a new work created for them on the occasion of their retirement. The June 22-26 performances were their last as members of the Company. Both will join the artistic team of TWB. Photo by xmb Photography for the Washington Ballet.

The Washington Ballet performs new dances with old memories.

Watching one of the Washington Ballet’s (TWB) final performances of “Moonlight” at Sidney Harman Hall brought back a flood of memories. It marked the final performance and retirement of TWB stars Tamás Krizsa (who choreographed the duo) and Sona Kharatian. And what sweet memories we share of these two incredible artists.

Sona and I flash back 20 years when she joined the company under Septime Webre who created wildly sexy dances for her gorgeous body – a mermaid in red as Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s married lover Buchanan in Webre’s rendition of “The Great Gatsby.” Alone on stage or with a partner sensitive to her sinuous movements, Kharatian captivates an audience regardless of technique or dance style. She is pure and cerebral in ballet classics and strong and sensual in modern works.

‘NEXTsteps’ supports the evolution of ballet and the dancer and celebrates the evolving beauty and resonant power of art.

In “Moonlight”, she wore bright yellow and was lifted above Krizsa’s strong shoulders, as if lifting her up to the heavens. I first wrote about her 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 the other performers – not overshadowed by this handsome Hungarian ballet dancer.

His concern for his partner was evident in his duet “Moonlight”. It’s such a beautiful piece, and romantic too. As always, Krizsa took this step behind her ballerina (he also designed the costumes), making sure she got the first bow.

Certainly, Mthuthuzeli November needs another look. He’s a serious artist with roots in South Africa, including “Where Do We Go Now?” aroused many feelings, some spiritual, some everyday thoughts. With native percussion and earth-toned costumes designed by the choreographer, “Where Do We Go Now? featured a dozen dancers sometimes coming together, then stepping back as if there were decisions to be made. I loved the program notes, “What would it be like to enter the gates of heaven, to come face to face with my ancestors?” I guess November and his dancers would be welcomed with open arms.

Based in New York, Jessica Lang is one of the most sought-after choreographers of original works from companies around the world. Lang, who trained with Twyla Tharp and Company, created a spectacular opening dance for the Washington Ballet. “Beethoven Serenade” recalls George Balanchine’s “Serenade” with its familiar gestures and exuberant dances. But this piece went further in its gaiety and gesture. 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 resonant power of art. With works by Brett Ishida, Jessica Lang and Mthuthuzeli November, the energy and inspiration definitely flowed from the studio to the Harman Hall stage and audience. The idea behind new ballets created especially for Washington Ballet by emerging choreographers reflects the voices of our times and will be heard again during the 2022-23 season which opens October 12-16, 2022 at Sidney Harmon Hall .

Pushing the boundaries of modern ballet, “NEXTsteps” continues with new works by visionaries Dana Genshaft (“Orpheus” and “Shadowlands” from TWB) and Silas Farley from New York City Ballet. The annual series features groundbreaking pieces by genre choreographers, including Washington Ballet’s Andile Ndlovu, as he presents brand new work commissioned after his much-loved “B1” (“Be One”), a celebration of human unity . The opening night celebration with a champagne station at intermission and after-party to kick off the new season is scheduled for Thursday, October 13, 2022.

Brett Ishida’s company debut, a spine-chilling “homecoming,” should be watched over and over again. During last Saturday’s performance, I couldn’t take my eyes off Maki Onuki, who looked surprised that she was getting flowers at the end of the ballet. Why not? She is a prima ballerina and can do anything a choreographer asks. For this haunting piece, the dancers gathered in circles while a solo dancer performed downstage left, then fell to the ground with only a few gestures to remind us that she was hallucinating or dreaming of better times.

When the male dancers ripped off their shirts and the women stripped down, leaving them only in black lace-up leotards, we all noticed. Second war. I saw a different dream of a lost lover coming back into her arms. Brian Jones’ lighting design worked magically throughout the dances.

Duration: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission and a break.

Washington Ballet’s “NEXTsteps” took place 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 Wolf Trap Filene Center on Wednesday, September 14, 2022. The program includes “Serenade” by George Balanchine, “Werner Sonata” by Silas Farley (originally filmed at Wolf Trap ), “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” by Balanchine and “B1” by Andile Ndlovu, with music by Ape Chimba.

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