An Evening of Bernstein and Robbins 


Through Sunday, Mar. 24  

Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh 

We’d anticipate broad artistic and emotional bandwidth in a night devoted to Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein, and Carolina Ballet doesn’t disappoint with this imaginative quartet of works. The show contrasts the brash, broad-shouldered Fancy Free—which presaged the principals’ Broadway premiere in On the Town—with Robbins’s introspective Afternoon of a Faun, a lucid dream enveloping two dancers’ encounter in a rehearsal studio in Debussy’s Impressionism.

Between these, Zalman Raffael, the co-artistic director of Carolina Ballet, animates two early Bernstein chamber-music works. The trio in A Graceful, Lighthearted Sonata exhibits a freeness and bonhomie reminiscent of Paul Taylor, while in the more ambiguous Metaphorical Heart, three pairs of dancers chart divergent levels of alienation and engagement against a background of well-sculpted choral formations. A witty show-and-tell sequence asks how obvious we have to be to communicate, interpersonally and in dance.

In Afternoon, Robbins places us behind an unconventional fourth wall: a mirror in a ballet studio. There’s an air of inquiry as soloist Sam Ainley contemplates the mirror between him and us, as he scans his articulate form for all it discloses. That air intensifies as Lily Wills enters in her own reverie, before the two delicately probe the possibilities between them.

As three fun-loving, sarcastic, competitive—and often short-fused—sailor boys on shore leave, Kiefer Curtis, Maxmilian Isaacson, and Yevgeny Shlapko keep each other, and us, perpetually off-balance in 1944’s Fancy Free. After being amusingly schooled by Courtney Schenberger’s confident metropolitan woman, these playful rubes, not quite ready for the big city, kick heels and cartwheel into a Manhattan dive, where one meets a potential paramour in a passionate pas de deux. But when a comic brawl breaks out to Bernstein’s jagged, jazzy polyrhythms, lust’s labors are lost. Time to haul anchor, boys.