The Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre’s presentation of “Dance in the USA” at the John Anson Ford Theatre on Aug. 17 was sometimes whimsical, other times inspiring and, a few times, a bit lackluster.
However, overall, the Burbank dance company’s trip through nearly 10 decades of music — from composers Aaron Copland and Duke Ellington to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, from the Beach Boys and B-52’s to Michael Jackson — at the Hollywood open-air theater, was pleasantly entertaining.
While the musical soundtrack was spot-on, some of the performances by the Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre (formerly the Media City Ballet Company), directed by Natasha Middleton, were strained. It seemed as if some of the dancers were not comfortable with certain non-traditional ballet dance formats, and the choreography of several pieces, such as “The Roaring ‘20s,” were less engaging than in other sets.
The show picked up when Chris Trousdale, in “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” hit the stage. The young principal dancer’s energy, precision and flair brought the production level up a few notches. Trousdale, who is in his first year with the company, also sings well — one could call him a dancing Michael Bublé.
In Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” Trousdale sang and danced a wonderful duet with the elegant and sweetly expressive Amara Baptist.
Also notable was Principal Dancer Allan McCormick in “Brother Can You Spare a Dime.” The former Nova Scotia gymnast’s athletic ability was apparent, and his expressiveness added to the poignant Depression-era music by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and Jay Gorney.
Principal Dancer Alexander Fost’s performance in “The Psychedelic ‘60s,” with music by the Doors, was impressive as well. Dressed in fatigues, with a drug-like induced stare, his movements were fluid and mesmerizing.
One of the final pieces, “Millennium,” performed by the entire cast dressed in white, flowing garments to Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” was ethereally poignant. (Costume designer Liz Nankin and set designer Keiko Moreno did a wonderfully, whimsical job on the entire production.) The dancers’ eloquent movements matched the plaintive cry of Jackson’s song about the state of our Earth.
It would have been a reflective ending to the show, but Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” with flag-carrying dancers, broke the magical spell created by “Millennium.” The program noted that this show was dedicated to “our wounded warriors and all those who have served our country,” which may explain why Middleton felt it necessary to close the night with a patriotic song and dance.
LAURA TATE is a frequent contributor to Marquee.