Originally created 09/21/96

Carmen: Visually and dramataically stunning



For a good time, call Carmen. I don't think so. Carmen isevery man's fantasy turned nightmare.

The Augusta Ballet presented its opening night of Peter Powlus' Carmen on Thursday at the Imperial Theatre. This is a story of lust, obsession and revenge. From the opening scene, the audience is stunned both visually and dramatically as Don Jose is executed and the tragedy of his demise is recounted.

The Augusta Ballet has earned a strong reputation for fine craftsmanship. The collaborative effort of what I saw on stage Thursday is another feather in this ballet company's cap of honors. The harmony of lighting, sets, costumes and staging all confirm what a tight ship is run behind the scenes.

I come to see the dancers. I was impressed throughout, however, with the simplistic yet effective set design by Guy Tuttle and the dramatic potency of Joseph Futral's lighting. These two elements are artfully woven together to emphasize - with the use of shadows, vibrant colors, and large shapes of stone - the starkness and passion gone mad in this tale of doom.

Barbara Brumeau's costumes provided the gaiety of the evening and were a welcome sight amid the brooding of the drama, though, I, personally, would have preferred less color and festivity in the mountain encampment scene that preceded Carmen's murder.

The dancing was meticulously rehearsed. I especially enjoyed the strong spirited jumping of the men's ensemble. My favorite dance moment was when Jacquelyn Prentice McKinney as Micaela entered the jail cell to visit her fiance Don Jose (danced by Thomas Shoemaker). The fluidity of her line and musicality gave her character a beauty and innocence that was well contrasted with the harshness of Bon Ellis' Carmen.

Fans of the Augusta Ballet who have experienced the gentle elegance of Julia Foley Morgan in tutu and tiara are in for a shock. This young expectant mother has shrouded herself in the disguise of an old gypsy woman who reveals the fate of the protagonists in her tarot cards. Her metamorphosis took me quite by surprise.

The use of narration for my taste is unnecessary and at times intrusive. Chris Kayser as the friar, however, makes it worth listening to and the telling of the story from his perspective gave a compassionate offering to this otherwise cruel tale. Mr. Powlus choreographed a delightfully tender and timely frolic for the friar with the gypsies just prior to the final scene where the depravity of Jose's obsession with Carmen is fully revealed.

Additional performances

Saturday, at 3 and 8 p.m. at the Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St. Tickets are $23 orchestra, $21 mezzanine, $15 first balcony and $7 second balcony, with a $3 discount for seniors, groups (12 or more) and area dance students. Call 826-4721 or 722-8341.infol

Ron Jones is director of Ron Jones School of Ballet and Artistic Director of Augusta Dance Theatre.