Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 28, 2023

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, "Tulsa Ballet"

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August 27, 2023
by Josephine Sarnelli

Photo by Christopher Duggan
The debut of the 66-year-old Tulsa Ballet at Jacob’s Pillow offers an outstanding performance of contemporary ballet at its best.  Artistic Director Marcello Angelini wisely chose challenging choreography to highlight the technical proficiency and artistry of his troupe.  His 22 dancers are an international blend; 17 of them are from eight different countries.  Fortunately, the language of dance is universal.
The most moving piece was the finale entitled “Divenire,” which means “to become” in Italian.  It is choreographed to the inspirational piano piece of the same name composed by Ludovico Einaudi.  The dancers respond to the momentum of the music as it ebbs and grows.  Choreographer Nicolo Fonte has many dances being executed on stage simultaneously, all of which are beautiful in their own way.   Periodically it is as if enough energy is generated to catapult them into one unified ensemble.

The choreography calls for numerous daring overhead lifts, at which all the dancers excel.  In addition to just traditional partner lifts, there are instances of two dancers elevating a single dancer and several times when the entire group congeals to raise up one.  It is as if “to become” is not an individual awakening, but an activity that is best done by a team working together for achieving maximum potential.  The athleticism of the dancers was impressive.  The male dancers offered stunning grand jetés and tour en l’air.  These were almost overshadowed by the effortless aerial lifts.  Of interest was the costume design which put both male and female dancers in leotards that had sheer wide-legged pants pulled over them.  The ability for dancers to easily change costumes offstage added a pleasing variety to the performance.

There was a quirky four-minute choreography entitled “Pas De Deux from Ode” by Katarzyna Kozielska.  It was inspired by the interaction of couples during the pandemic.  There are humorous interludes with the dancers rejecting one another, only to be pulled back together again.

“Celestial Bodies” was choreographed by Andrew McNicol to a variety of music, which gives it breadth.  Overall, there was a feeling of ethereal, otherworldly movement. The aerial lifts create a feeling of spinning and there are moments when you feel as if you are on a galactic journey with music such as “Mothership” by Mason Bates.  The cast internalized the energy of the music and became like stars in the sky on the outdoor Henry J. Leir Stage.

The audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation to the Tulsa Ballet with hopes that Jacobs Pillow might invite them back again soon!