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November 26, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014

Coliseo wins dance gala race against Colón

Jurgita Dronina and Valentino Zucchetti in Coppélia at the Colón Theatre.
By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

BA’s main lyrical theatre brought oldies & goldies, some Alvin Ailey innovation

As was the case in recent years, both the Colón and the Coliseo staged ballet galas; this time it was on consecutive Saturdays, with the Colón raising the curtain first. But the implied competition was won by the Coliseo and it will continue to be so in forthcoming years if Lidia Segni, the Director of the Colón Ballet, insists on the idea of offering a gala in the first part but putting the Colón Ballet on stage in the second part. It is, in fact, half a gala. I am far from thinking that the house Ballet is mediocre; it is in fact quite good and has improved a lot. However, the whole idea of an international gala is diminished with Segni’s decision.

A good gala combines different styles and fine dancers from many places. Some pieces are repeated “ad nauseam” (frankly I’m fed up with the Don Quichotte pas de deux). The mixture in both galas gave us old standards and novelties. A huge gap was felt: the great innovators of modern dance are missing; we need Béjart, Bausch, Graham, Limón, Jooss, and also those great creators of the ‘20s and ‘30s such as Nijinska, Massine, T. Gsovsky. And we see far too little of Balanchine and Robbins. The organizers should select not only dancers but also repertoires.

Precisely because it was half a gala, the Colón presented eight dancers; the Coliseo, fifteen. At the Colón the “classics” were in minority, the first two choreographies out of nine (leaving out the second part): the pas de deux from La Esmeralda comes from 19th century creators Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa, music by Cesare Pugni, and was nicely done by two artists from the Rio de Janeiro Teatro Municipal: Márcia Jaqueline Araujo (on tambourine) and Moacir Emanuel (as the hand programme offered nary a word on the selected ballets, I add that it refers to the Esmeralda of Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris).

The other was the Coppélia pas de deux (Delibes-Petipa) with two fine dancers: the Holland National Ballet’s Jurgita Dronina (Russian) and the Royal Ballet’s Valentino Zucchetti (Italian). All the music of the first part was heard in recordings, some of them (like the Delibes) poorly.

The third piece brought a welcome change of pace: Pas de Duke is a choreography by Alvin Ailey on music by the incomparable Duke Ellington. It follows the traditional form of adagio, male variation, female variation, and fast final pas de deux, but with the swinging flexibility of Ailey’s steps, wonderfully danced by Linda Celeste Sims and Kirven Douthit-Boyd; their particular plasticity is typical of the best black dancers, and I kept reminding myself of the splendid visit in recent years of the full Ailey Ballet.

I am of two minds about Third Symphony, mostly beautiful steps by the longtime choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier, for it tears apart the musical integrity of the sixth and final movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony, one of his sublime inspirations and by far the best music of the evening. Neumeier starts the dance several minutes after the music has commenced and interrupts it abruptly a good deal before the intense ending. But I admit that it was splendidly danced by two Hamburg ballet artists, Hélène Bouchet and Carsten Jung (of imposing physique).

I didn’t enjoy Precipitation to tiresome music by Philip Glass and mechanistic choreography by Éric Frédéric; Araujo and Emanuel did their thankless job well. Even more thankless was Dronina’s work in Tectum, on horrid noises by Machinefabriek and boring choreography by Juanjo Arques. But I did find originality in Jacobson’s Vestris, where Zucchetti danced and acted admirably in an evocation by Leonid Jacobson (with agreeable pseudo-Baroque music by Gennadi Banchikov) of the late 18th century dancer Gaetano Vestris, for he was the first to eliminate masks that dancers used previously. As if he were Marcel Marceau, the white-faced Zucchetti assumed the character of diverse masks.

Now a bit of silliness: the programme defined Unfold as having music “by Leontyne Price.” Not quite: she sang Charpentier’s beautiful aria for Louise, Depuis le jour, completely inadequate music for the Ailey company with a poor choreography by Robert Battle, well danced by Sims and Douthit-Boyd. Finally, a pleasant creation by Neumeier, a pas de deux named The Bench on saccharine music by Michel Legrand, where a hobo and a girl flirt, nicely danced by Bouchet and Jung.

Many years ago the Colón staged an evocative Venezuelan ballet, Nuestros valses, with choreography by Vicente Nebrada and sentimental music by the great pianist Teresa Carreño. As it falls easily on the ear and the choreography gives a good chance to five pairs of dancers identified by color, it stayed on the repertoire for some seasons. This was the piece chosen by Segni for the second part, with the accomplished participation on stage of pianist Iván Rutkauskas.

Both because they danced longer than the others and red makes a strong impact, the couple Federico Fernández-Nadia Muzyca dominated the proceedings, but the other pairs danced well, especially Macarena Giménez and Juan Pablo Ledo. The three remaining duets: Luciana Barrirero and Edgardo Trabalón, Natalia Pelayo and Maximiliano Iglesias, and Carla Vincelli and Emiliano Falcone.

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