Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

The Ellison Ballet Spring Showcase 2012 had a rousing performance last Saturday night at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center.  In an evening of classical and contemporary ballet, the students delivered a pleasing amalgam of well-chosen pieces that showcased their remarkable abilities.

A sampling of romantic duets to music by Chopin opened the program–Waltz, Scherzo, Minute Waltz, and Nocturne –with nuanced and delicate partnering. Sara Ezzell–David Hochberg, Sarah Tryon–Jason Ambrose, and Lauren Archer-Louis Picuira-de Pimodan painted beautiful languorous and evocative shapes in Nocturne, while the men in their solos, and ensemble work were outstanding in the Finale–bold and confident.  All appeared well-rehearsed and sharp in their intentions.

As the evening proceeded, there were a few brilliant performances. Ka’imi Cambern was technically exacting in the Variations from Flower Festival at Genzano executing the difficult Bournonville style with attack and elevation, and added haughtiness. We were also presented with Variations from Don Quixote, by Erez-Ben Zion Milatin, who matador straight, bold, and strong, danced with panache.

But perhaps the best pure dance performance of the evening was by Leonid Khrapunsky, in If Only.

Dance being one of the primal arts was certainly in evidence here. With contemporary choreography to percussion instruments only, Mr. Khrapunsky viscerally interpreted the beats with elemental and animal athleticism;  with a quick tempo, and intense, expressionistic movement encompassing a lightly woven theme and variation, he electrified the audience thoroughly.

And there was more!  Closing the program was a thoroughly engaging Gypsy Dance from Don Quixote.

Music by Minkus, choreography by Larisa Calero after Marius Petipa, and Gypsy Solo choreography by Kasyan Goleizovsky.  This turned out to be the piece de resistance for the evening.  What was good? Everything. Lauren Archer, the music, guitar solos, sexy costumes, big wild hair with flowers, all added up to a true mood of a gypsy camp; like swans, you can never have too many gypsies.  Everyone likes the myth of the gypsies, and they are found everywhere from India, Romania, to Spain  These were of a Russian variety.

Lauren Archer provocatively captured the Spanish passion and essence of her character, and danced with wild abandonment as she displayed a flexible, pliant, and expressive body.  The choreography sizzled, and the corps of fellow gypsies were wild and beautiful, as gypsies should be.

After having seen the Ellison school perform a few seasons ago, I must say the men were stronger and better prepared than ever before.  The women were also sharp and displayed a maturity that was evident, say in Fan Dance from La Bayadere, where they all appeared in harmonious unison in another Minkus score.

In a word, the energy, commitment and dedication all showed through, and one lucky graduate, David Hochberg was accepted into the Sarasota Ballet Company.  Well done and congratulations!

A lovely reception followed, where dancers, former dancers, instructors, family members and balletomanes socialized after an exciting evening.

Ellison Dance in Rehearsal:  I LOVE DANCE!