The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

James Sewell's Ballet-Not What Was Expected

By Virginia Ross, The Quill

In Stronghurst extra tickets were available for the last Civic Music Concert last Saturday night, but when the word "ballet" was mentioned numerous other events suddenly took precedent. Too bad as the program presented by the James Sewell Ballet company was not what was expected. Tutus were not the standard dress of the women and yes, the men wore tights but not what is seen in the classical ballet productions.

Saturday night was a perfect night for a dose of culture and the Burlington Auditorium parking lot was competing with a party at the port plus usual downtown revelry. Children laughed uproariously as water spray drifted over them from the fountain along the riverfront each time the east wind gushed landward. The assembling crowd looked more as if they were going to a casual outing in the park with a few holdouts for a more formal appearance.

On time James Sewell stepped from behind the curtains to explain how much his group (three men and three women) had enjoyed working for three days with senior citizens, dance groups and the program on Friday given to 200 students sponsored by First Federal of Iowa. He noted the company was based in the Twin Cities.

The first presentation was "Mendelssohn Trio," which he reminisced that he had heard his aunt play many times. He went on to say that there was not story in their dramatic interpretation like found in classical ballets, but the audience was welcome to invent their own.

Lights were dimmed and then the curtains revealed a stark stage back-lighted in blue. All at once the stage exploded in movement as the six dancers used both traditional ballet mixed with jazz dancing to present an avant garde performance.

The second set in the suite began with one slow, pensive dancer expressing in her slow sad dance. Joined by the others, she blended into the group who employed basic ballet moves with incredible physical dexterity and strength. Red back-lights ended this section and foretold the lively dancing of the final set-how extremely talented; how extremely strong each and every dancer was!

James Sewell, again, took the stage and explained how body movement so simple but so complex challenges the brain and promotes well being. His piece, Body Puzzle showcased intricate moves. Dressed in black and focused with a spotlight his dance back grounded by modern percussion type music highlighted the sinewy body's ability to bend and weave. Adding metal rings he become somewhat of a magician as rings joined and then parted as part of the dance.

The second portion the performance entitled "Made in America" presented the dancers interpreting familiar music from "The Star Spangled Banner" to "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Here were all types of American music put into one suite where each stood alone. Whether it was the mournful Appalachian Trio woefully portraying the sadness of a miscarriage to the haunting strains of "Crazy" telling of spurned love, the dancers created mood and compassion in each presentation.

If you refused the use of a ticket, you missed a great performance. Look beyond the stereotype next time and you might be amazed.