When first introduced to Ballet Next at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, the company was a stable of top dancers. Founded by former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles, it included New York City Ballet’s Charles Askegard, Georgina Pazcoguin and Kaitlin Gilliland.
But now, five years later, it’s appears to be a student company, a band of uncertain and under rehearsed young women who are still wobbly in their pointe shoes. And they are dancing works by Wiles that range from beautiful to undeveloped to downright strange. Wiles’ husband James McCullough explained that Saturday’s night show at Kaatsbaan was in preparation of an upcoming tour. One can only hope that it is well in advance of the tour as much work is needs to be done on all aspects before Ballet Next is ready for a larger stage.
It wasn’t a total failure, however. First off, Mauro Bigonzetti’s “La Folia” is a joy. Its accompanying Vivaldi was played live by Elliot Figg on piano and Holly Nelson on violin. Both dove into the music, as they did all night, was exhilarating drive.
The dancing was lopsided, however. The zesty duet, with Erin Chong and Lillian DiPiazza, toyed with mirroring and foiling, with speed. But the technical distinction between DiPiazza, a member of Pennsylvania Ballet, and Chong, a former Washington Ballet dancer, was rattling. DiPiazza stretched the movement, sending it energy up and beyond the audience. Chong, while lovely, looked woefully inadequate next to her. But DiPiazza seemed unsure of the choreography, watching Chong as she went along. DiPiazza was always a split second behind.
Still, this was the best piece of choreography on the program.
Wiles’ “Experience Pas de Deux,” while not as interesting movement-wise, but it was pleasing. It coupled two dancers who were better suited to each other – Violetta Komyshan and Natalie Stys – as they were on par with each other’s abilities. The dance was colored with a lot of hand gestures, spiraling around faces and bodies. While there were no bold strokes, it was pleasant.
The odd part of the evening was the inclusion of flex dancer Jay Donn. This street dance-style that hails from Brooklyn is fascinating to watch – but jarring tossed into a ballet.
In “La Stravaganza” and “The Game,” Wiles was clearly experimenting with the flashy Donn, but it just didn’t work. This is not to take away from Donn who surprises with his pointe work in sneakers and his ability to bend and leap over a quartet of dancers. But the way Wiles brought him in didn’t really make any sense. It was a bizarre and poorly executed attempt to give Ballet Next an innovative edge.
One more thing, every dance looked to have the same costumes – just modified slightly – which looked amateurish.
For Ballet Next to take it to the next level, it needs better costumes, choreography and dancers. But keep those musicians.