One of the finest things about Neos Dance Theatre – and there are a growing number of laudable traits – is the perfect fusion of classical ballet technique with a decidedly fresh and modern impulse. The result in performance, as happened when the company danced on August 9-10 for the Heinz Poll Dance Festival in Firestone Park, is accomplished, commanding, and engaging dance.
The troupe seems to be growing, for there were some new names that haven’t been around before. Yet you would never know it; the dancers seemed utterly at ease and ready to deliver.
Neos performed four pieces, each of which had distinctive style and import. That’s not easy, especially when the same dancers are required to shift gear from historical ballet to contemporary dance.
In the historical vein, Neos paid homage to Heinz Poll (for the whom the festival is named) by performing his “Summer Night.” It’s a tender, moving work for four dancers in two concurrent duets – one drenched in blue and the other in pink costumes and lighting. Poll’s work deals with lovers and tender love and passions that arise as the dancers interact, all completing itself in the final moments when the female dancers lifts off the floor into the embracing arms of her beloved. The moment is pure elegance and feeling.
Also on the bill was a pas de deux from “Giselle.” The dance calls for stillness, elegance, sure strength and control, the long line of the body, and the look of weightlessness – all of which were delivered by Jennifer Safonovs (wife of répétiteur Jurijs Safonovs) and Kristopher Wojtera.
Neos repeated as well “Homage,” which had been unveiled the previous year at the festival as a tribute to dancers and dance fans in the northeast Ohio area. Set to the lush music of Hector Villa Lobos, the dance physically whirls and exalts the human form in motion and thematically portrays the will to persevere in the face of it all. It’s Wesner’s work, and it’s carved out of beauty.
Further by Wesner was a new work – “Spinning Plates.” The dancers were awesome, but the kicker for this work came in watching choreographer Wesner. The stage for the summer festival is an outdoor one, constructed for a weekend over four weeks in various city parks. So you can see as dancers make entrances and exits (unlike when they actually have wing space in traditional settings. Off to the side of the outdoor stage was Wesner, looking intently as he took in his creation. He had to be pleased.
Neos also performed “Bonobo,” a work developed for Hubbard Street 2. Essentially it explores a range of theater, as seen in the opening when a single male dancer (Wesner) does a soft shoe in dance slippers, and then as each dancer enters a downward lighted area drawn across the stage to reveal the array of theatrical attitudes – from diva to coquette, from eager to been-there-done-that. Then the dance delves into a kind of vaudeville revue. It’s cool, and it fits well on the Neos stage.