On Saturday night, few chose to forgo the normal “dancing” at a frat party for something much edgier, exciting and riveting. Yes, I went to the Ithaca Ballet’s performance “Winterdance.” “Winterdance,” performed at The State Theater, was a collection of seven stand-alone pieces. Two of the seven were choreographed by Cornell’s own Byron Suber, a faculty member in the Dance department.
The first piece was “Veneciana Barcarola,” which had set the dark stage like it was an outside window to the snow. With a blue backdrop and all the dancers in black, it was reminiscent of birds flying south for the winter. The dancer followed in a pendulum-like motion, one after the other, starting with the principal dancer Nadia Drake ’02 and Johann Studier. Together, the pair were as elegant as figureskaters as he seamlessly spun her around like a ballerina in a jewelry box. The most incredible movement in the dance was when Studier picked Drake up by her thigh and lifted her into the air. The other principal dancer of the company, Beth Mochizuki, also danced in “Barcarola.” She was the only dancer who smiled throughout the entire piece and really stood out for her cheerful demeanor along with her impeccable pirouettes.
The next dance was “Romeo & Juliet Pas de Deuz.” This piece was a duet between Drake & Studier. It was simple to distinguish that they were dancing to the scene where Romeo and Juliet spend the night together before Romeo is exiled. The dance itself had a contrast of Studier’s longing to be with Juliet, shown through him constistently getting on one knee begging while Drake would leap away from him. All of this was resolved in the dance when Studier once again, showed his uncanny ability at picking up his partner in unusual places. This time, he picked her up by her stomach (Men of Cornell-do not attempt this, thank you!).
After the duet ended, the second best piece of the night began. “Tilyou’s Revenge” had the dancers stomping out barefoot onstage to a scene that can only be described as a carnival. All the dancers clapped their feet together to the cymbals and marched around like various animals, all performing for a show. While carnies never ran out onto the stage, there was several dancers performing acrobatic feats, such as backwards flips and a pair that looked like Siamese twins.
For the final piece before intermission, the audience was treated to Byron Suber’s world premiere of his choreographed piece “Doberge.” It had principal dancers Mochizuki and Drake, along with several senior dancers, almost worshiping the arrival of warm weather through their various spins and throwing their arms up to the sky. This piece truly showed Mochizuki and Drake’s ying-and-yang style dancing: they simply complement each other.
Once intermission was over, the show seemed to take a trip backwards into the winter theme with Suber’s second piece of the night “basic black and baby blues etudes.” The body length leotard that was neon blue worn by one of the senior dancers had the audience awaiting the arival of The Blue Man Group to make a special guest appearance. Sadly, they did not come.
The final piece of the night was “Trip-Toc” and it only proved the age-old adage “save the best for last.” Starting with the section titled “Who’s There,” the scene opened with several senior dancers wearing lampshades on their head, one of the younger dancers acting as a dog and another reading a book. The audience erupted with laughter until we all noticed that the dancers were not moving until a little girl in the audience shouted “Why are they just standing there!?” As if the lamps had suddenly come to life, the dancers made very robotic movements and their costumes came off looking very Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton edition). The next section was “Once Upon a Time in the East” and had Drake, Studier and “demi character dancer” Tom McHugh acting a three-way shoot out. The grand finale was “Big Cheese” that had a pool bar owner (Scott Dolphin) lip-syncing to the enjoyment of the other dancers who were dressed as synchronized swimmers.
Overall, “Winterdance” was a winter-time delight. Audience members even seemed to pick up dance moves, for the same little girl was leaping down the aisle as the show ended.