Fall for Dance 2012 Program 3
New York, NY
October 3, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
Those who came to see the dancers familiar from the reality series "Breaking Pointe" were treated to the grand pas classique from "Paquita" clear, clean, sparkling, refreshing as an alpine brook. The staging, by Elena Kunikova, perhaps best known in New York for her settings of the Imperial repertory for the Trocks, was first performed by Ballet West a few months ago. Bits and pieces made it into the TV series. Kunikova and the dancers got two things marvelously right. This "Paquita" is alive and breathing, unburdened by the wet blanketd of reverence and historical import which can render a ballet dutiful and dull. At one moment the corps, in tendu, surrounded the principals, then, on the music and with a delicious snap fell to one knee in a circle around them, transformed from abstract frame to adoring subjects in the space of a beat. Exhilarating.
Kunikova also seems to have taught the ballet not step by step, but phrase; in any case, that is how it was danced. But Kunikova is dealing chiefly with American trained dancers, rather than graduates of the Vaganova Academy like herself, so the phrasing was conveyed by the legs with the upper body remaining rather stiff. There were also problems with union and strength, but, with any luck, this staging will stay in the Ballet West repertory and the dancers will grow into it fully. Besides, it would be a pity to condemn David Heuvel’s costumes to mothballs. Combining gold filigree with deep purple, red purple or white, they are delicate, elegant and imperial.
"High Heel Blues" was a complete change of key, a five minute long duet about the temptation of a pair of high heeled shoes just waiting for someone give in and shell out big bucks for them. We’re in every man territory. Yusha Marie Sorzano enters in a wide skirt over petticoats, the better to focus on her legs. She wears soft slippers, her feet all but bare, and dances in response to the story of the blues by Tuck and Patti. The choreographer, Uri Sands, appears upstage as the song mentions a salesman. Sands initially does very little; like the snake in the Garden of Eden, he knows he need only wait for his moment to trap his prey, which he does. Shoes aren’t the only subject here, it’s larger, up to and including every bad or irrational decision one has ever made, particularly in matters of the heart. The conceit is fun, and it resonates clearly. Sands, and particularly Sorzano, are very appealing performers, but the choreography is not distinctive enough to carry the story without the wit and assistance of the vocals.
But what do you miss if you can’t understand what’s being said? How much of the import and intent of "Tarian Malam" didn’t register? The piece, first presented in August of this year is a response to the earthquake that struck West Sumatra in 2009. Its vocabulary is rooted in the dance and martial arts vocabularies of the Minangkabau people. Most striking was the drumming with which the piece opened (the only live music of the night) and the accompanying wailing, full of grief and terror. But this went on far too long. Had the dancing been forgotten? Once it showed up, the dancing didn’t add enough to the piece.
The Moiseyev opened with two trios choreographed in the 1930’s. "Kalmyk Dance", for three men, used a repeated shiver beginning in the shoulders and ending in hands fluttering like wings to convey not just a bird in flight, but the wonder and scale of nature itself. In "Tatarotchka", Olga Volina, Oleg Chernasov and Evgeny Masalkov, ran in circles around the stage, at a speed that seems impossible. Then Volina does it alone and backwards, her scarlet boots flashing in the stage lights. The centrifugal force and ease of it are thrilling. With "Dance of the Bessarabia Gypsies" from 1959, the Moiseyev sank into nightclub territory. I can only admire the training, discipline and strength of the dancers "Suite of Moldavian Dances" of 1958, but it felt slightly off, too self-consciously manufactured, like the women’s heavily sequined black skirts. Only during the trios did folk dancing (even as theatricalized as Moiseyev’s) do what folk dancing viscerally can do: make everyone want to get up and dance and believe that they can.