Sinopoli and SSO make fine partners

The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra under conductor Charles Schneider and the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Co

The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra under conductor Charles Schneider and the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company worked together for the first time Sunday afternoon at Proctors. It could be the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

Sinopoli’s company of Audrey Burns, Melissa George, Claire Jacob-Zysman, Laura Teeter, and Jennifer Yackel gave two world premieres and one dance from its repertory. “Clip,” to the music of Aaron Copland’s “Music for the Theater,” was a constantly shifting set of five short dances that mirrored the music’s moods. Sometimes the dancers worked independently but interacted, other times Sinopoli grouped them 3:2 or 4:1 in nice spatial arrangements that were easy to follow.

There was good flow and phrasing between groups of steps, which made for a continuity of vision. This was further helped by the variously colored Greek-like tunics the dancers wore and the changing colors of the back scrim, which ran through lavender, blue, coral and back again. Although the music was spare and shifted through many short motifs, Sinopoli’s choreography provided a fluidity. She wrapped it up nicely at the end with all five dancers facing front.

Just a ‘Fling’

“Contrapuntal Fling,” to Leonard Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs,” was lively, fun and a direct response to the music. Costume designer Kim Vanyo added her own twist in dressing each dancer in a different color and a different design. Dancers spun and leapt with quick energy, their arms thrown up in a playful way. There were many jazz-type moves.

“Into Dark Moods” (2006), to Munir Beken’s “Pottery Shards,” was a dark narrative about alienation. Side lighting designed by Jason Sinopoli cast troubling shadows that only heightened the choreography. The music for strings was haunting and spare. Dressed in black pants and flesh-toned T-shirts, the dancers rarely connected. Searching gestures, tight turns in small spaces and arms held close to their bodies conveyed their anguish and frustration. At two points, their stress was palpable as they tried to escape but one dancer held up her hand as if to say, there’s no way out. It was great stuff.

Knowing leader

The orchestra did all right considering it has rarely been in a pit before. Schneider, however, with his strong background as a ballet conductor, knew what to do.

The orchestra also played alone in waltzes from Tchaikowsky’s “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Balletomanes could visualize the dancers, but it was pleasant to hear the pretty melodies. The orchestra sounded good, although the trumpet section seemed to have trouble.

Bernstein’s “West Side Story Symphonic Dances” was much trickier with its multi-meters and syncopation. The orchestra sounded cautious. The music ran through many of the familiar themes, such as the “Cool,” “Somewhere,” rumble segment and “Maria” tunes, but it would have fared better with dancers. Although Bernstein arranged the suite, its spareness and need for exact pacing left too many empty spaces and quiet moments. A visual would have helped.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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