Arts review: Nothing can diminish the power of a James Kudelka ballet

  • Photo courtesy of Will Shively
By Columbus Alive
From the November 14, 2013 edition

Canadian choreographer James Kudelka shares a long and fruitful history with BalletMet Columbus going back some 25 years when the company performed his “In Paradisum” in 1988. Kudelka has created four works with BalletMet and served as artistic consultant during the interval between artistic directors Gerard Charles and Edward Liang, whose inaugural season continues.

“The Four Seasons: An Evening with James Kudelka” brings back two of those world premieres and adds a seventh Kudelka ballet to the BalletMet repertoire.

Opening and closing with its signature, two dancers turning slowly in an equilibrium-defying heart-shaped embrace, “There, below” long ago became one of BalletMet’s most frequently revived works. As haunting and enigmatic today as it was when BalletMet premiered it in 1989, “There, below” leads five pairs of dancers through Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.”

Kudelka’s most recent commission for BalletMet, from 2010, is his tribute to Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black,” set to six covers the singer recorded late in his life. In their movements, the quartet of Olivia Clark, Jimmy Orrante, Jackson Sarver and Gabriel Smith (casts vary) distantly echo varieties of dance from the American West. Using the simplest of components, Kudelka has crafted a casually intense work of fascinating complexity.

In comparison to the streamlined elegance of “The Man in Black,” the evening’s title work, set to the Antonio Vivaldi violin concertos known as “The Four Seasons,” seems cluttered and almost clumsy. But nothing can diminish the power of Kudelka’s Columbus legacy.