Range of Motions: Amerikana III

'Fancy Free' comes to the ballet stage in 'Americana III'

The ballet suite Amerikana III is a splendid addition to the Czech National Ballet’s goal of introducing American ballet to Czech audiences. The diversity and richness of the American contribution to this art form is apparent from George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, and Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free.

Together, they show how difficult it is to characterize what “American” is. One tip: Americans move differently than Europeans. When walking, their center of gravity is the shoulders rather than the hips.

But Robbins’ Fancy Free, which presents a night out on the town of three American sailors in 1944, perfectly combines this American style of motion with the demands of the ballet. In Fancy Free, Leonard Bernstein’s wonderful score is transformed into a visual feast.

Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, with music by Tchaikovsky, reflects the Russian origins (and training) of its author. The neo-classical forms he uses here are superbly executed by the troupe. Special mention must be given to the prima ballerina Alina Nanu, whose presence illuminates every scene she dances.

Balanchine: Miho Ogimoto, Alexandre Katsapov

If Balanchine’s piece delights the eye with the beautiful, if static, forms it offers, William Forsythe’s contribution is all about motion.

Set to Thom Willems’ modern, techno music, In the Middle Somewhat Elevated requires the dancers to combine classical dance “figures” with continuous movement—an extraordinarily difficult accomplishment that is flawlessly executed.

Watching the two principle dancers, Miho Ogimoto and Aya Watanabe, I was continuously amazed at how flexible and fluid the human body could be.

Forsythe spent a large part of his career (1971-2004) in Germany and, in a sense, occupies a middle ground between the European forms that Balanchine fostered and the purely American focus of Jerome Robbins.

Forsythe: Giovanni Rotolo, Monika Hejduková

You can get a hint of the distinctive differences of these three masterful choreographers from the photos here; but to treat yourself to the full effect, you’ll just have to witness the actual performance for yourself. — oo

– James Mensch

The next performances of Amerikana III are scheduled for Dec 5-6, with repeat performances next spring.

Photo Credits: Pavel Hejný, The Czech National Ballet

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