Spoleto 2009 » Dance

CBT serves up a real lunchtime crowd-pleaser with Brown Bag and Ballet

This bag is packed with jazz, country and tango treats

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I was comfortably seated in the black box theater with five minutes left until show time when I realized my grave mistake. Scanning the crowd, I quickly noticed plastic to-go boxes and bags of peanut M&Ms. A bag of Chexmix caught my eye. I forgot to bring my bag lunch.

Feel-good food makes for happy viewers (hello, movie theater popcorn?), and good-mood vibes emanated from Saturday's crowd. Brown Bag and Ballet is a great Piccolo event for out-of-towners to catch because its prime location allows traveling festival-goers to grab a less-expensive lunch and pop in from their King Street endeavors for a spontaneous ballet performance (no suit and tie expected). It fits into a Charleston tour nicely before they head back to their hotels and get dolled up for a full evening of dinners and late-night events.

My noon medley opened with men in cowboy-esque shirts casually shuffling around the stage country-style, at one point forming a cowboy kick line. I was becoming fidgety, but then Jennifer Balcerzak Muller came on the stage with a gorgeous switch-leap. Not long after, the country boys all had dance partners. The number was light and fun and cleverly infused with basic, beautiful attitudes. Muller was sprite-like and a joy to watch.

In "Nobody Knows Me," Jessica Roan gracefully fell and melted into James Peronto. Intricate and very impressive lifts were worked into every number. The men of this company hold women upside down, backwards, and forwards whether they were leaping, splitting, or curled into a bundle. At one point, Roan was lifted in a seated position so high, her hands nearly hit the overhead lights. My very favorite partner lift/jump was during a duet with Melody Staples and Steven Hammell: Staples took to the air, a la Superman, leaping towards her partner. And just when it looked like she had overshoot Hammell, he caught her mid-soar.

"Afternoon with the Faun" began with Roan, divinely dressed as Marilyn Monroe, atop a flight of stairs, white skirt billowing (you know the scene from The Seven Year Itch). She was lifted and spun around non-stop for the next 10 minutes. I feared many times she would be dropped. One of the steps has Roan with her leg extended forward, when it is grabbed by the ankle and pulled in towards her partner — very sexy.

As a whole, the show had the perfect matinee touch, topped off with some tango. Miki Kawamura and Jonathan Tabbert's playfully sizzling "Crowdambo" will always be my favorite. My only qualms were with the unclear program. I, among others, stood up to leave twice, and finally had to ask an usher if I should stay. A heads-up announcement at the start would be a nice amendment to the program.

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