A New Voice?


Cities Classical Dance Ensemble (CCDE) is in part a spin-off from Continental Ballet, which is based inBloomington, and in part a pickup assembly of some strong dancers from various sources around town. These include the U of MN dance department and BalletMinnesota. Biographies reveal many other connections both local and national. Their show is entitled “Ballet Amore” and is at The Lab.

The founders of this group, Laura Janson and Katherine Krieser, are company members with Continental Ballet inBloomington. Full disclosure here – I know Katherine and Laura because I also perform with Continental, doing character roles such as Catalabutte in Sleeping Beauty, the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella, the Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf, and Mother Ginger in Nutcracker. I also did Drosselmeyer for many years.

 Let me please take this opportunity to observe that a lot of people think Continental is just some Bloomington-suburban dance studio with kid dancers, a few recitals, and a Nutcracker of some sort or other. To those who believe as much, I say that it’s utterly not accurate. This company of adult professionals, drawn from across the nation, delivers classical ballet warhorses with considerable precision. That’s the artistic vision and that’s what it does.SwanLake, Sleeping Beauty, Rodeo, Nutcracker, Coppelia, and so forth. The company tours throughoutMinnesota, but is reluctant to come “downtown,” just as the downtown audience is reluctant to take a “suburban” company seriously. Both thereby lose. Continental is a strong company and aMinnesotaasset.

Enter now the spin-off by Laura and Katherine. If you see this show, with half or more of the cast drawn from Continental, you will see that Continental is NOT some trivial studio with kids, recitals, and suburban storefront studio amateurism. And the spin-off is not some crazy kids. These are serious professional people.

The dynamic here is that some of these highly accomplished dancers would like to reach farther than Bloomington(where Continental is adored) and hit the downtown scene. They would also like to reach beyond the late 19th century/mid 20th century warhorses. Please note – and I hope that I don’t embarrass anyone here – that most of the dancers are in their late twenties or early thirties and know what the hell they’re doing.

So that’s the back story.

This Fringe performance begins with a rather formal tutu and pointe-shoe dance to a mix of live viola and recorded piano. It’s very nice. And then comes the departure from hardass classicism.. There is a bravura male solo tango piece by Alexander Smirnov that will knock your socks off with its virtuosity, its understanding of the concept and its downright stage presence. There’s a theater-dance piece by former American Ballet Theater dancer Ron Tice that presents the myth of Prometheus in a kind of frightening Wall Street setting. There’s excellent live cellist and violist music to cover a costume change. There’s a Bourbon Street flavored jazzdance bouquet (They do jazz very well. It doesn’t look like ballet steps set to jazz music.) There’s a delicious evocation of Jacques Brel. There’s a closing piece that is, in fact, late 20th century contemporary ballet, thoughtful, skillful, but human rather than princes and princesses.

Next to last came a presentation of four girls, probably aged about nine or ten, who did two segments from a famous classic 19th century ballet. CCDE offers this item as a statement that children (like everyone else) should dance, that many of the cast are teachers and these are their students, and that dance should be as disciplined as necessary, which is considerable, but it should never squash the individual creative spirit. These four young ladies were totally committed to what they did, they did their work with astonishing accomplishment, they radiated joy and confidence in their performance, and they brought down the house the night I saw it. I read one Fringe audience review that dismissed this as “product placement.” This has just been my refutation to that person.

What is the future for CCDE? Have we just seen a new voice appear on the scene? Maybe we have, though how the transition might proceed could be complicated.

I recommend this show VERY highly.