We have been fans of the “Up Close at Hope” dance programs at Festival Ballet for years. They just keep getting better and better.
Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric has assembled dancers from all over the world and given his stars a chance to shine with a variety of short dances, ranging from the classical “Don Quixote” to the modern “Short stories for small magazine, choreographed by the talented Viktor Plotnikov. Every audience member is so up close that they can see the sweat and hear the breathing of the artists. If there is the slightest mistake (there usually isn’t) they will catch it.
The latest program, which runs Feb. 24 and 25 and March 2 and 3, offers seven varied performances, utilizing just about every member of the Festival Ballet company.
While they are all outstanding, I do have to single out two dancers who are simply fantastic, receiving loud, sustained applause from the appreciative audience. Jennifer Ricci, an incredibly talented veteran of Festival Ballet, following in the footsteps of her equally talented sister, Jacqueline, appears in three of the dances, showing her versatility. Walter Gutierrez, who trained and performed in his native Cuba, is now in his second season with Festival Ballet…and what a find he is.
Ricci and Gutierrez join together in the World Premiere, “R/J,” with music by Shostacovich, to open the second half of the program. He also opens the evening with Alexandria Mitchell in the classical “Don Quixote,” which set the high standard for the evening.
During intermission, audience members are treated to wine and hors d’euvres and an art exhibit by local artist Jan Gordon, who sits in on rehearsals and classes and offers his paintings for sale to benefit the company.
Djuric knows how to please an audience, going from classical to modern to ultra modern. If you don’t like a number (we liked them all) another is soon to follow. The affable director serves as master of ceremonies, charming the audience with his wit and humility.
The classical opening piece was followed by the modern “Yo no se eres para mi,” choreographed by Leticia Guerrero, to the haunting music of Vangelis.
“Up Close at Hope” is a true Rhode Island treasure, with most performances selling out. Festival Ballet has another treat for families…a wonderful way to introduce children to ballet. They will present Boyko Dossev’s “Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood” in their ChatterBoxTheatre Feb. 25 and 26 and March 3 and 4 at 4 p.m. and Feb. 26 and March 4 at 1 p.m.
For more information, or to make reservations for Mother Goose and Up Close at Hope call 353-1129. Festival Ballet is located at 825 Hope St. on the East Side of Providence.