Ok so I’m really excited to talk about something here. Those of you who know me in real life or are a frequent reader-between-the-lines on this here blog will know that I have a brewing desire to combine ballroom and ballet into…something.
You can, therefore, imagine my excitement when I discovered one of the latest works by choreographer and Dance With the Stars pro Derek Hough and found it marries powerhouse ABT dancer Misty Copeland with a bevy of ballroom men. The resulting product is a tango-y concoction with hints of Paso Doble, salsa, and inventive partnering.
What do I actually think of the piece, from a critical eye? Well for one, I’m thrilled Copeland is wearing pointe shoes. It might seem trivial, but they add a layer of strength and floaty-ness that just isn’t achievable in flat shoes. It also drives home that this is not a ballroom piece. It just isn’t. Not one move Copeland does is recognizable as any Tango syllabus–and I am totally ok with that. It is also not a ballet piece, despite the pointe shoes. The men are talented and sharp, but they are not ballet dancers. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have had ballet training in their pasts, but the lack of virtuoso turns and jumps veer the piece away from traditional and contemporary ballet vocabulary.
The beginning of the piece, where Copeland is passed from man to man, makes me go eeeeeeeeee. Yep, like that whining in your ear. Perhaps because so often I see pieces with multiple women and one man, I very much enjoy the flip side of the gender balance. It’s sexy, it’s fun, and it presents new opportunities for partnering that you just don’t get in either strict pas de duex or ballroom coupling.
The one thing that bugs me about the piece is the same thing that bugs me about a lot of showcase ballroom and swing–the long string of lifts at the end. Don’t get me wrong, they are masterfully executed and impressive, but I am just a wee bit tired of seeing lovely, strong ladies turned into juggling clubs. I expect it must be tempting as a choreographer, when presented with dancers as strong and capable as these here, to try ALL the lifts–but I still maintain that they need to be necessary, somehow, to the piece and to the story. But that’s just my bias.
Conclusion? I’m thrilled to see ballet and ballroom coming together in a small way, especially from such decorated dancers and choreographer. I would love to be a part of this combination of genres. Hopefully some day I will be.