BalletNext was founded by former American Ballet Theatre superstar Michele Wiles, center right, but features young, still unformed dancers. Pianist Venrana Subotic stands with Wiles.
Seven years after its formation, BalletNext has still not found its footing.
The company, a regular at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, was established and is directed by former American Ballet Theatre superstar Michele Wiles. Yet even with Wiles at the helm, the company stands on shaky legs.
As seen on Saturday night at the Tivoli, N.Y., dance haven, the company now consists of eight pre-professional dancers from the University of Utah. Under Wiles tutelage, I’m sure these dancers have blossomed, but they are not quite there yet.
I’m not sure why Wiles doesn’t hire professional dancers. The company started out as a pick-up company for her professional colleagues from American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. It has devolved into student showcase that two years ago led me to complain that her dancers were, “a band of uncertain and under rehearsed young women who are still wobbly in their pointe shoes.”
Wiles current group is much finer, but you could see a woozy confidence, a misfortune for any type of performance art. Professionals, though they do suffer insecurities, know how to hide them.
Uncertainty really only came through in the first ballet, “Ushuaia.” Danced to live music by Heinrich Biber, played by a quartet of piano, violin and cello, the ballet is a romp for four. This is a complex ballet, in which the dancers, dressed in black and red, are expected to display strength and power brought forth through sharp and speedy pointe work.
The result was mixed. For the most part, they tackled the choreography artfully, even Wiles’ trademark vogue moves that always look like they don't belong. Unfortunately, tinges of panic and uncertainty seeped in the rendering a few too many times.
The young women did much better with two works that Wiles created on them – “Simmer” and “Hey, Wait.”
“Simmer,” to three pieces from Franz Schubert’s Impromptus D. 899 played beautifully by pianist Venrana Subotic, was a cat’s cradle with a dancer caught up in the middle. The unraveling and spooling in of strings, which was central to the ballet, could have been a tangled disaster. The dancers kept it all straight and had fun with the choreography – allowing their personalities to shine through.
“Hey, Wait,” to music by Tom Harrell, showed off the dancers' edgy attitude. Dressed in black unitards, slashed with vibrant colors, the BalletNext crew finally let go and danced with courage. Sarah Murphy especially stood out. Though petite compared to her fellow dancers, she towered over the others with her self-assured style.
Clearly, BalletNext is making headway. Next time I see the company, I’m hoping to not lament its lack of professionals. If Wiles can keep and hone these dancers and hire some men too, she might actually have something.
For now though, the company remains a dabbler in the New York ballet world flush with solid artists.