Theatre Review: A ‘Moving’ Experience


Note: This review was posted on the KC Stage review system.

Moves (combining “Mercy of the Elements”, choreography by William Whitener; “Moves”, choreography by Jerome Robbins; and “The Catherine Wheel Suite”, choreography by Twyla Tharp). Produced by the Kansas City Ballet. First produced 2011. (Seen May 5, 2011.)

As the last official production in the Lyric Theatre, Kansas City Ballet’s spring performance is a trio of modern dance presentations: the world premiere of “Mercy of the Elements”; the piece that the performance takes its name from, Jerome Robbins’ “Moves”; and Twyla Tharp’s “The Catherine Wheel Suite”.

dancers from "Moves"
Photo from “Moves”, used courtesy Kansas City Ballet.

“Mercy of the Elements” has three sections, each named after a tempo — which, of course, is reflected in the dance itself. “Allegro con brio” is lively and spirited; “Andante” is much slower, and shows balance and form; and “Rondo-allegretto” is light again, energetic and sassy at times. The dancing was flawless, and the dirty old woman in me has to thank the costumer for the grey/white tights the men were in. Can I get a ‘yummola’?

The middle piece, “Moves”, is a hard one for me to write about. Five different movements, it is a ballet in silence, and I still am not quite sure what to think about it. It’s an intriguing exercise on defining dance — do you need music (and the accompanying tempo and beat) to have dance? Sometimes it worked — the dancers supplying their own rhythm and beat (especially in “Dance for Men”) and showing that dance can indeed work without music. Sometimes, though, it didn’t work — especially in the fourth movement, “Pas de Deux”, as it tended to split focus one too many times and it was hard to know who to watch or follow.

It’s breathtaking, tantalizing, and fascinating … yet at the same time, it was almost uncomfortable to watch. You became very aware of the silence (the ‘traveling cough’ especially), and every movement made in the house seemed to be amplified ten times as a result. It’s a good experiment, but at the end of it all, that’s what it felt like — an experiment.

They seemed to save the best for last. “The Catherine Wheel Suite” is my type of modern dance. From starting out with a smoke/fire that makes the name of the piece very apparent to the sense of freedom the dancers seemed to show as they got their grove on, this section alone makes it worth to see the production. It’s energetic, sexy, and even has music by Talking Heads songwriter David Byrne. It definitely looks like hard work, but at the same time the dancers look like they are having so much fun performing.

Naming the full piece Moves shows that the connecting nature of the three pieces is movement. The first is all about moving with the music and flowing, almost as if the dancers were instruments themselves; the second was all synchronicity and syncopation, how movement in dance is much more than matching to the music; and the third was about how free and unrestrained movement can be and still be considered ballet.

If you think ballet is nothing more than The Nutcracker and tutus, all tightness and ‘good for you’ type of art, you need to check this production out.

Moves is playing at the Kansas City Ballet until May 8, and more information can be found at

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