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“Who Cares?,” George Balanchine’s lively interpretation of George Gershwin’s 1920s Broadway show tunes, is a perfect accompaniment to the Sacramento Ballet’s world premiere of Ron Cunningham’s “The Great Gatsby.”
“Who Cares?” opens the program with some of Balanchine’s classic moves – precision ensemble dancing, elegant extensions and intricate patterning. The ballet company’s talented cast of dancers performs extremely well, bringing energy, humor and artistry to the choreography.
Standouts include Christopher Nachtrab’s “Liza,” Amanda Peet’s “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” Pett and Stefan Calka’s intimate “The Man I Love,” Alexandra Cunningham and Oliver-Paul Adams’ elegant “Embraceable You” and Kaori Higashiyama and Rex Wheeler’s “’S Wonderful.”
Choreographer Cunningham, celebrating 25 years as Sacramento Ballet’s co-artistic director (with wife Carinne Binda), set himself the daunting goal of making a brand new ballet based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic Jazz Age novel, “The Great Gatsby.” To say that he succeeded is an understatement. He has created not just a gift to his company, but a gift to the entire dance world. An innovative combination of dance, acting, narration and live music (by Billy Novick and his Blue Syncopators) brings the novel to life. Novick compiled and arranged the songs and created period-perfect interludes as connecting tissue. The sassy Chicago blues singer E. Faye Baker sparks the stage with each appearance.
Blessed with a stable of dancers fully capable of executing his vision, Cunningham stages a daring drama that often is breath-taking to watch. Stefan Calka stars as the title character, Jay Gatsby, and Alexandra Cunningham dances the role of Daisy Buchanan, the love of his life, thoush she is married to the womanizing Tom Buchanan (Christopher Nachtrab in a knock-out characterization of a complex man, perhaps a creature of his licentious times).
Dance-maker Cunningham incorporates popular dances of the Roaring ‘20s, including the Lindy Hop and the Charleston, with classic and contemporary ballet moves to advance his story.
One stunning approach to turning novel to dance is to employ two performers for the role of Nick Carraway. Carraway was both narrator and participant in the plot of Fitzgerald’s story. Oliver-Paul Adams admirably dances the plot-point Nick, while actor-singer Connor Mickeiwicz portrays narrator Nick. Their introduction, dressed identically and moving in tandem, establishes the conceit brilliantly.
In addition to characters Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Nick, the featured cast includes the lovely Isha Lloyd as Jordan Baker, a female professional golfer and friend of the Buchanans; the dazzling Amanda Peet as Myrtle Wilson, mistress to Tom Buchanan and wife of George Wilson (danced by Michael Separovich), who seeks misdirected revenge late in the ballet.
“The Great Gatsby” is a triumph for Cunningham and the Sacramento Ballet. It continues at 7:30 p.m. today (Feb. 8) and Saturday (Feb. 9), and closing with a 2 p.m. matinee of Sunday (Feb. 10). Performances are at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L St. Tickets are $17-$70, available at the box office, by phone at (916) 808-5181, or on-line at www.sacballet.org.
Editor's note: The third and fifth paragraphs have been edited to reflect the accurate spelling of Christopher Nachtrab's last name.
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