PHOTO: Saint Louis Ballet presented “Love Is In The Air” for Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 13-14, 2015, at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Ballet and the Touhill ©

 

By Albert Nall, Staff Writer for The Current

Saint Louis Ballet performed “Love is In the Air” on Friday, Feb. 13, and Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, in celebration of Valentines Day. The Friday night performance followed a special Valentine’s Day banquet. Diners in a transformed Lee’s Theatre were served a feast that included an entree of beef tenderloin stuffed with spinach, and accompanied by the music the audience heard at the dance performance later.

Gen Horiuchi, executive artistic director of Saint Louis Ballet, indeed took a risk by starting the evening off with “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. It appears rather unusual, for a Valentine’s Day event to start off with a retro jazz theme from the roaring 20’s. A risque composition for solo piano and a jazz band, the piece had elements for which Gershwin had hoped would enhance an appreciation for symphony and opera by the masses.

Featured dancer Matthew Dibble, who is from Yorkshire, England, was the one of the guest artists in “Love Is In The Air.” Dibble was pivotal in a couple of the dance pieces in the introductory sonata, performing as George Gershwin, in his featured routines with troupe dancers Milan Valko and Erik Hoffman in front of the concert hall. Dibble also doubled as Fred Astaire, with Saint Louis Ballet dancer Lori Wilson as Ginger Rogers. As a patron who attended the event stag, this reviewer really enjoyed the piece’s focus on friendship, camaraderie, along with its reference to great competitive and artistic rivalry. For this attendee, the digression in theme was quite welcomed, given the concept of esprit de corps that the piece projected. For most of the Touhill audience, however, a focus on Gershwin as a tribute to a romantic holiday, appeared to leave many feeling dispassionate, at least for the moment.

After the first intermission, the amorous tone of Valentine’s Day finally took shape, in the performance with a series of dance routines inspired by the works of jazz artist Nina Simone. The works by Simone projected great flair and connectedness with the Touhill audience.

Sterling performances were given with the pairings of troupe members Erica Goss, and Erik Hoffman on “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free.” Audrey Honert and Stephen Lawrence also joined Goss and Hoffman on the first two numbers of the medley as well.

The main highlighted paring of the collection by Simone, however; was reserved for Amy Herchenroether and Gregory Tyndall on “Strange Fruit.” The perfectly symmetrical shapes of Herchenroether and Tyndall projected a picture perfect aura that was not only relevant, but awesome to behold. The performance on “Strange Fruit” itself, with its first-rate set design, made the dancers a form of live animated digital media that dares promotion professionals to step up their game. The great chemistry between Herchenroether and Tyndall was the statement and the message that social media can take its cues from.

The final dance series for “Love is in the Air,” “La Vie” galvanized the demure audience from the opening of the curtain. The climax dance piece, choreographed by Horiuchi, was authentic from top to bottom. One segment of the performance featured a dance appearance by Horiuchi with the principal guest artist Miyako Yoshida, a widely acclaimed dancer from Tokyo. The exchange between Horiuchi and Miyako, not only projected romantic intimacy, but the pairing exuded great rivalry as well, with a game of one-up-manship by the dancers. The final dance by Horiuchi completely led to a standing ovation by the crowd.

The performance, under the direction of Horiuchi, by far preceded the show’s pre-performance press, giving the Touhill audience of approximately 5,000 patrons the ultimate clinic in fine dancing. Whether it is Valentine’s Day, or Singles Awareness Day, the performance of “Love Is In The Air” delighted one and all.

© The Current 2015