KC Ballet’s ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue’ kicks off new season with a winner

Nicole English

Aisling Hill-Conner as the stripper performing her show in “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” by George Balanchine. UMKC Alumnus, Erik Sobbe, is the enthusiastic fan on the center right, who is later shot for his amorous behavior
Aisling Hill-Conner as the stripper performing her show in “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” by George Balanchine. UMKC Alumnus, Erik Sobbe, is the enthusiastic fan on the center right, who is later shot for his amorous behavior

The Kansas City Ballet opened the 2010 season with a dynamite program that featured several pieces by Russian composer George Balanchine, as well as an encore performance of the popular “Lark Ascending” piece, choreographed by Bruce Marks for the Ballet West company in 1979.

The show opened with “Mozartiana” Balanchine-choreographed, set to music by Peter Tchaikovsky, a Russain composer and admirer of Mozart’s music, hence the name.

The opening movement was “Preghiera,” or prayer, featuring Angelina Sansone as the female lead, assisted by four young students of the Kansas City Ballet School who did a remarkable job for their age.

The next movement was the “Gigue” (related to the word “jig”), danced by Charles Martin.

Martin has grown remarkably in the last year, exhibiting great command of stage presence, in addition to good elevation and ballet technique.

Although he had a couple of heavy landings, his style and presence more than carried the performance.

In the third movement, “Theme et Variations,” Logan Pachciarz and Angelina Sansone danced as a couple and presented the typical Balanchine combinations challenging the ballet technique of even the best dancers.

Although technically efficient as dancers, Pachciarz and Sansone seemed livelier in their solos than in their duets, where their synergy as a couple seemed to ebb and flow inconsistently.

Following the first intermission, the concert resumed with the “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” performed with great style by Kimberly Cowen and Michael Eaton to the intricate choreography (again) of George Balanchine.

Cowen displayed her crisp, clean execution of steps, along with an effortless stage presence, which she shared with Eaton. The harmony and synergy in these Cowen-Eaton duets was apparent and compensated for any minor flaws in execution.

“Lark Ascending,” set to the quiet music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, was as lovely and ethereal in this performance by Stayce Comparo as it was when it premiered for The Kansas City Ballet audience in 2007.

Dancing with a male quintet, the choreography and execution was fluid, flowing and sinewy.

After a second intermission, the headlining featured work, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” was presented with great fanfare.

It opened with a humorous prelude that sets the stage for the “story-within-a-story” plot, and featured Gabriel Davidsson as the Premier Danseur, performing a credible caricature of Vaslav Nijinsky, Phil Fiorini as the brusque Gangster “hit-man”, and UMKC alumnus, Erik Sobbe as an impish eavesdropper on their conversation.

Sobbe also plays the overly-enthusiastic fan of the Strip-Tease Girl (played by Aisling Hill-Conner). He soon becomes the first casualty during the bar-room brawl sparked by his passionate leap to the stripper’s stage to embrace her.

Shot by the Big Boss (suitably played by Luke Luzicka), a lover of the Strip-Tease Girl, Erik Sobbe’s character is quickly, and humorously, dispatched by the bartenders (played by Charles Martin and Logan Pachciarz).

A quick romance blossoms between the Strip-Tease Girl and the Hoofer, played by Michael Eaton, who gets to show off his tap-dancing skills in this playfully romantic role.

The budding romance is cut short, however, as the love triangle ends tragically and perhaps melodramatically.

But because this is a delightful farce, the story does not end there. The framing “story-within-a-story” assassination attempt is revisited and foiled in a light-hearted manner, using dance as a distraction. The entire production culminates with a flashy finale segment with the entire cast.

Colorful and playful, this theatrical piece was the lively highlight of an already strong concert program and well worth the price of admission.

Looking ahead:

The UMKC Fall Dance Concert will be held Nov. 4-6 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee on Nov. 6 at 2:30 p.m. at White Recital Hall in the Performing Arts Center. The concert is free with a UMKC ID and open to the general public for $6 and $8.

[email protected]