Barak Ballet’s Virtual Fall Gala, held November 21, 2020, began with an upbeat and informative pre-performance introduction by Craig Olsen, Chairman of the Board  and Richard Konigsberg, Donor and Trustee of Edward F. Limato Foundation.  Both collaborated as Executive Producers on the prolific Melissa Barak’s and Barak Ballet’s newest cinematic endeavor, Reclamation. 

This powerful 20 minute filmic piece is a tour de force performed by a group of five stunning dancers, Stephanie Kim, Jessica Gadzinski, Francisco Preciado, Chasen Greenwood, with Indiana Woodward and Harrison Coll, currently soloists with New York City Ballet (NYCB). Through Olson, Konigsberg’s and Barak’s welcoming introduction, they make clear to donors and guests the importance of this evening.  It is about preserving not only a dance company, but the future of dance.  And with each matching donation, Olsen and Konigsberg celebrated new hope for the Artists and the Art.

In Barak’s own words, she speaks about the artist’s challenges:

“As a contemporary ballet company focused on fulfilling bold, artistic visions, we’ve taken the limitations created by COVID-19 and created a unique opportunity for audiences to experience dance – through cinematic ballet.”  Says Barak.  “During this challenging time, when we are missing the experience of live performance, we hope this… fills a void with an evening of dance, art, food, drink, community and celebration. The beauty and inspiration you’ve come to expect from our live programs will still be felt through this new work. A work that could only translate through a camera’s lens and a little movie magic. The event not only grants access to a one-of-a-kind experience, it also provides an opportunity to support the arts in a time when we need it the most.”

On this special night, Barak Ballet partnered with Eataly, Good Gracious and Cocktail Courier to deliver drinks and food for the enjoyment of streaming viewers of the gala.  The event took place over approximately 90 minutes, and included an After-Party with breakout rooms to meet and greet the creators, cast and supportive team.

With creative persistence and out-creating inertia, Barak has mounted an allegory about the times in which we live.  Its subtext reveals the powerful challenges of this moment of the growing pandemic along with this summer’s environmental rebellion with its fiery ashen mountains and hills as proof.  This film preserves a dance artist’s view of its effects in time, and resolutely acts to create inspiration for the future.

Barak Ballet - Dancer Indiana Woodward - Photo by Rachel Weber

Barak Ballet -Dancer Indiana Woodward – Photo by Rachel Weber

Reclamation is a creative pas de quatre uniting superlative dancing, music, sets and facile camera work. It is designed and created for dance, without distraction or words, revealing an impressive piece of dance artwork. The bold strokes of legato and staccato movements surround the stark and elegant artists’ view and direction.  The gorgeous dancers move in front, through, and within the sets of sparse white angled obelisks, made prominent against the azure blue sky, so aptly envisioned by Ms. Barak and Selena Moshell’s direction.

The opening visual exposition begins with the exquisite form and dancing of Stephanie Kim, who appears like a fallen angel, near nude, dusted with the carbon reminder of scorched hillsides and barren parched trees.  Her long raven hair gently echoing the still aftermath of shock and loss. It integrates the compelling score written by the brilliant Italian composer, Ezio Bosso who left too early in his life at age 48.

Stephanie Kim - Photo courtesy of Barak Ballet

Stephanie Kim – Photo courtesy of Barak Ballet

The expert camera work by George Nienhuis and Alex Fauver (DP’s) moves with voyeur-like precision, passed the languorous and spirited movements of each dancer as they solo, couple and group in threes and fives.

In the First Movement Jessica Gadzinski, all in white, etches her expertise in facile effortless movement, and Chasen Greenwood laments alone in a beautiful solo piece.  The coupling of a technically challenging pas de deux danced by the adroit Woodward and Coll then transitions into interwoven patterns by the group.  There is a final challenge by Ms. Kim and Company. With a surprising resolution, this innovative dance-play cleanses the soul and rises like a Phoenix.

Reclamation succeeds in keeping the arts in the forefront and inspires the need to see more of this type of work in the future.  Congratulations to Barak Ballet and its leaders and supporters for reminding us that there is still art and beauty at these times of challenge.

To visit the Barak Ballet website, click HERE.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.

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