Monday, September 24, 2012

Collaborative Carmina: Carmina Burana a fitting tribute on Minnesota Dance Theater’s 50th anniversary, and another sign that Cowles Center breeding creativity

Although brief, the performance ofCarmina Burana, at Minnesota Dance Theater’s 50th Anniversary Gala last weekend showed how vital having a dedicated dance space like the Cowles Center is to generating an enormous variety of creative and interdisciplinary art.
Carmina mixed the Minnesota Dance Theatre with the Carmina Burana Chorus, along with a few local actors and musicians for good measure. It was in a way reminiscent of watching the Minnesota Opera, minus the lavish sets and with a far heftier dance focus.
Minnesota Dance Theatre was well-rehearsed and fun to watch. While they didn’t have the sizzle of a Ballet Prejcolaj, it was another reminder of how lucky we are in the Twin Cities to have so many formidable arts organizations. I look forward to seeing them perform a more familiar narrative (Moulin Rouge as a ballet? Hey, dreams can happen). The geometric aspects of their choreography, most evident in the opening and closing numbers, were particularly fun to watch.
Bradley Greenwald has already displayed his theatrical prowess in hit shows such as the Jungle’s I Am My Own Wife, but who knew he also had a set of knockout pipes? Greenwald was radiant as Carmina’s reining baritone, displaying a deft, nuanced understanding of his part and playing it to full comedic and dramatic effect. As good as he is in theater, Carmina proves he should definitely spend more time on the choral side of the aisle.
Jennifer Baldwin Peden, anchoring the sopranos, also displayed a lovely voice, particularly with her aria at the end of Carmina. She also maximized the show’s simple costumes and setting, standing out in a vermillion dress that left no doubt where all focus should be placed. Tenor Justin Madel was a bit warbly for my taste, but still pulled through his parts with aplomb.
The choir and accompanying musicians provided a sound foundation for the soloists and dancers to build upon, although some of their choreographed herding was clumsy. Other than a few minor exceptions, there were no costumes or sets to speak of, and with all of the bodies on stage it was likely better that way.
Carmina Burana was a great anchor between the gala’s other events, which included a silent auction and dinner. Cheers to the Cowles on a successful first season and the Minnesota Dance Theater on an astonishing fifty years, and here’s to hoping they have many mre collaborative works like this in their future.
+ The Cowles Center’s 2011-12 season continues with performances by the Zenon Dance Company, TU Dance, Keigwin + Company, and the Cantus Vocal Ensemble. See the complete schedule at thecowlescenter.org. Learn more about the Minnesota Dance Theatre at mndance.org.