California Contemporary Ballet Theatre (CCBT) presents 50 minutes of contemporary ballet, choreographed and conceived by Rebecca Witjas, which depicts humour, beauty, longing, first love and the contemplation of strengths and weaknesses within a dancer’s career in a limited run of only six matinee performances.
As the audience enters the dark, bare studio, the dancers are warming up, re-adjusting pointe shoes. First observations are this is no young dance group; they are comprised of eight Millennial and Golden age dancers of seven women and one man, with diverse technical ability.
We are invited to engage with the Californian identity of this company, with their gift of a limited edition, small pouch of sand straight from the shores of Malibu, California – a nice touch but had me worrying about the mess in my bag if the pouch split!
Photographs of Californian scenes starring members of the company, are projected onto the backdrop, in between certain acts to allow time for costume changes.
Six separate ‘acts’, using different compositions of dancers, blend a range of familiar classical music pieces from Beethoven and Bach, twisted with modern-contemporary songs from Basement Jaxx, Sting, and Yo-Yo Ma and whilst the choice of music is great, it is let down by an audible, background high-pitched sound, which is as annoying and distracting to the audience as it must have been to the dancers.
There are some stand-out performances, and Ruth Fentroy in Song to the Moon, set to Dvorak, has light and shade and pure grace as she tells the story of a mermaid conversing with the moon about a human she is in love with.
Fragile, a dance set to compositions by Sting and Yo-Yo Ma, is a moving and beautiful piece with two dancers, one young and one in her 60’s, with the older dancer perhaps lamenting a dream unfulfilled. The Director’s note explains, “Time and space can be unkind to a dancer. We love to move, we love dance’s immediacy; but not all of us can afford to indulge our love over our everyday needs.”
Whilst it’s refreshing to see a company celebrating all ages and abilities and there’s no denying this troupe’s passion for dance and their combined love of this art form, two stand out dancers only serve to accentuate some ‘sloppy’ footwork and porte de bras lines from the others.
I really want to love California Dreaming, with its energy and passion, fabulous costumes and music composition choices, expressive choreography, and direction embracing the old and new. But the overall performance is spoiled by the poor sound quality and the variability in the company’s different technical abilities, which don’t completely complement each other.