Ballet et Gillet

I went to see the Kansas City Ballet’s final program of the season a few weeks ago. Because I also had an obligation across the lobby in Helzberg Hall the same evening, I was only able to watch the first piece standing in the back of Kauffman Theatre.

Coming back to the work after weeks of visitors, family, travel and work, I’m still impressed by the visual memories of the ballet I saw.

When the curtain came up for Serenade, the audience grasped. Choreographer George Balanchine was indeed a “Master of American Dance” if for that breathtaking moment alone. He brought the strict Russian tradition into the wayward freedom and energy of New York – the most America that many immigrants ever saw – and showcased it with this first American ballet. This work appeared on the program with pieces by Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, and Todd Bolender.

The chorus of female dancers in simple bodices and gauzy, ankle-length skirts were arrayed in front of a dusky blue backdrop. The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings seemed driven by wafts of night air. Tchaikovsky is, of course, timelessly dancable, and this piece in particular mixes epic moments with playful themes for some interesting variables.

Particularly memorable was a brief segment featuring five dancers who turn to each other, weaving under each other’s arms in a seamless display reminiscent of the blossoming and unfurling of an early evening moonflower.

And the piece itself is a nice reminder of what one can achieve if one utilizes available resources. It was first conceived and performed using students (though it’s evolved from that original piece), and the classic technique and traditional treatment are spectacular, though it also has an aspect of tongue-in-cheek humor. The Kansas City Ballet performed the piece with pristine precision and it was an honor to witness this exquisite work.


And chanteuse Helen Gillet is in Kansas City again for a wealth of appearances, in part to launch her latest solo CD.

I heard her Thursday in the loft of Grunauer with Snuff Jazz, which served as a “pre-release” performance for the album. Many fans and friends came out for the event, most of whom were seen the following night at the Brick for the official release, and then again at Saturday evening’s West 18th Street Fashion Show, where Gillet performed with KC locals as the event’s incidental music. Vintage-pop duet Victor & Penny opened with a tune, playing guitar and ukulele and accompanied on tuba by Bill McKemy.

I didn’t see much of the runway show since I had my kid with me  and bedtime is bedtime no matter the social event (and he was shockingly more interested in my keys than a fashion show, though he was fascinated by all the fancy hats the attendees sported). But we gleaned an invitation to the loft of a friend of a friend and caught glimpses of the runway from the balcony. And, of course, half the fun is seeing what the spectators are wearing, so that part we enjoyed thoroughly!

Our view of the fashion show.

Gillet isn’t just making news in Kansas City, though. A recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine mentions her in an article about a New Orleans shanty town cum musical environment.

But since I’m not heading down South anytime soon, I’m listening to her album on perpetual loop until it’s engrained in my psyche. It only seems appropriate to do so.

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