At the opening performance of Richmond Ballet’s 2019-2020 season, prima ballerina Maggie Small gave a heartfelt farewell performance as new dancers made a strong first impression.
This past weekend kicked off the 2019-2020 performance season of Richmond Ballet, the state ballet of Virginia, with Contemporary Classics at the Dominion Energy Center. Featuring fan favorites choreographed by John Butler and George Balanchine, Richmond Ballet company dancers new and old impressed an immense crowd of family, friends, and children with poise and grace. “Themes and Variations” was performed by the company for the first time in the organization’s existence, and “Carmina Burana” was the send off to retiring prima ballerina, Maggie Small.
With a live score provided by the Richmond Symphony, “Themes and Variations” is quite possibly my favorite Balanchine work performed by Richmond Ballet yet. Lead roles were held by Sabrina Holland and Tony Oates, and they were powerful displays of prowess within the art form.
Tchaikovsky’s chamber sounds were meant to be felt, accompanied by the long lines of ballet. From toe to finger, the audience was left enthralled, peering onto the Carpenter Theatre’s stage and witnessing effortless execution. I must say: brava, Holland. Artistic Director of Richmond Ballet Stoner Winslett said herself that she’s “been saving this for a company strong enough to perform. And after 40 years, we have it.”
After the intermission, and as the audience returned to their seats, the walls and aisles of the first and second floor began to fill with choral singers dressed in long black garb. One hundred operatic voices from the VCU Commonwealth Singers and the Richmond Symphony Chorus erupted into the resonant overture of “Carmina Burana,” a sixty-year-old ballet that is recognizable to even the least informed patron.
With this mighty presence, and a subject matter as ripe as peaches, Maggie Small took the stage one last time alongside other leads by Cody Beaton, Fernado Sabino, and Ira White. Each were as phenomenal as you can imagine, sending Small off to retirement with gusto as she performed what some would call her magnum opus.
Contemporary Classics only showed three performances with a run-time of about 90 minutes, and the only thing I wish was different was that it lasted just a little longer. We all did not want the night to end, for Small to walk off stage one last time, for the Symphony to pack up their instruments. But like all good things, it came to an end, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it happen. This performance was by far the most meaningful concert I’ve had the pleasure to see from the Richmond Ballet.
There’s still time to purchase your tickets to Richmond Ballet’s next performance “Studio One,” running from November 5 through November 10. Tickets are available through their website.
Top Photo: Maggie Small with dancers of Richmond Ballet in Carmina Burana by John Butler. Richmond Ballet. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.