Dance Arriba! - a presentation by the American Ballet Theatre for and with Casita Maria
The Apollo Theatre
253 West 125th Street
New York, New York 10027
January 27, 2004
Tonight the American Ballet Theatre gave a special presentation at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem to honor and support the work of Casita Maria, the oldest charitable organization serving the Hispanic community in East Harlem and the Bronx. This special evening was MCed by Sonia Manzano, the actress and cultural icon more commonly known as "Maria" from Sesame Street. She was poised and gracious. She kept the presentations moving along smartly. She didn't have any Muppets to back her up, but she did have an impressive cast of dancers, most of whom have Latin backgrounds of diverse origins. She also had the honor of presenting the World Premiere of a new ballet by the students of the ABT/Casita Maria Make a Ballet program.
The evening started off with the energy coming from the building itself. The interior is both grand and dynamic. Walking into the space for the first time, I got the same feeling I get when walking into Radio City Music Hall downtown or the United Palace Theatre farther uptown: I am glad people in New York have made the effort to not only preserve these magnificent spaces, but to also make them alive and in use.
Choreography by Jessica Lang
Music by Astor Piazzola
Costume Design and Execution by Kathryn Grillo
Lighting by Brad Fields
Let Go and Let Me Go: Jennifer Lee, Jacquelyn Reyes, Ana Sophia Scheller, Abigail Simon, Blaine Hoven, Matthew Murphy, Arron Scott, Roman Zhurbin
A War of Looks: The Company
And Some Looked Back: Arron Scott
Finale: The Company
This ballet is danced in four sections. In the first section, four women dressed in red and four men dressed in black are bathed in an ominous fog. This section makes extensive use of ground work. The music is heavily rhythmic with a low pitch, like a heart beat. The movement had a sinuous quality. Towards the end of the section, the stage lightened.
The second section used bright lighting. The music was high pitched. The women danced in a more upright manner than in the first section. The men leapt in this section, where they did not leap in the first section. The music had energy with a tango sound. If one were to contrast the feel of the first section compared to that of the second section, one might say that the first section expressed mourning, while the second section expressed life.
The third section had no fog, but eight spotlights set to high contrast. The music matched the lighting in that it was basically bright, but the music also had penitent undertones. The dancing seemed to reside in a middle ground, expressing both pride and agony.
In the final section, there was also no fog. The stage was bathed in low contrast reddish light. The dancers seemed hopeful.
Overall, this was a ballet with intriguing combinations in both the group and duet sequences.
Choreography by Robert Hill
Music by Lowell Liebermann
Costumes designed by Zack Brown
Costumes executed by Barbara Matera, Ltd.
Lighting by Brian Sciarra
Dancers: Laura Hidalgo, Danny Tidwell
On viewing this ballet, I had originally assumed it was a section of a larger work that had been chosen to highlight the talents of two fine dancers. Now that I look at the program more carefully, it may be a short ballet presented in its entirety. Either way, it indeed highlighted the talents of two fine dancers.
Mr. Tidwell had good air in his leaps. I especially like the plasticity of his movement quality, especially when he was spinning. By plasticity I am referring to an apparent ability to bend and stretch, much like Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four (the Marvel Comics superheros). Ms. Hidalgo showed very good pointe work, especially where she held one leg parallel to the floor for what looked like an especially long time.
Mr. Tidwell had a tendency to roll out of his spins, rather than land them with a clean stop. This was probably specified in the choreography. There is nothing wrong with this, especially since the roll outs were very smooth. I point this out so that readers can see it as the artistic choice that it is, especially since it is a choice that calls somewhat less attention to itself than the landing to a stop choice.
After this performance, the New York City Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs came on stage and presented a proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg declaring January 27, 2004 Dance Arriba Day. In addition to a nice plaque, this presentation covered a set change.
Romeo and Juliet - Balcony Pas de Deux
Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan
Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Scenery and costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis
Costumes executed by Barbara Matera, Ltd.
Dancers: Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes
When the curtain rose, Paloma Herrera (Juliet) was standing at the top of a high balcony that conveniently had a grand staircase attached to it, enabling her to walk down to Marcelo Gomes (Romeo) and dance with him. They fit together well. Mr. Gomes performed a leap circle that would have been a perfect expression of elation, had it not been upstaged by one serious kiss later in the dance. They were both passionate and gentle at the same time. Their performance was both commanding and lovely.
Flames of Paris
Choreography from the original by Vasily Vainonen
Music by Boris Asafiev
Dancers: Erica Cornejo, Herman Cornejo
This was a well done and spirited excerpt designed to showcase the virtuosity of the dancers, allowing them to show off over and over again. Both Cornejos lived up to the task. Mr. Cornejo was very impressive when he danced his kicking leaps. Ms. Cornejo was poised as she showed off extended pointe work.
Choreography by David Parsons
Lighting concept by David Parsons
Lighting design by Howell Binkley
Music by Robert Fripp
Dancer: Angel Corella
At the beginning of this work, Angel Corella moved from spotlight to spotlight. The movements involved much stretching that showed off the human form (a particularly fine specimen thereof, to be sure). The section used sharp angles, which were in contrast to the classical lines found in Flames of Paris.
The second section of this work is the reason it is such a crowd pleaser. Using a strobe light and carefully timed movements, Mr. Corella appeared to track across the stage without moving any part of his body. He then performed an impossibly suspended leap. I have seen Caught performed before, but I have never seen the leaps suspended quite as high as Mr. Corella managed to achieve. He also managed to levitate backwards before falling back to earth. In between sections he would stand in the spotlight as if to say, "See, there is nothing up my sleeve," before launching into another special effect.
This work can be interpreted as a techno-gimmick. There is nothing wrong with a gimmick if it works, which this one does in a rather masterful way, but one does need to recognize the limits of the form. I, for one, can't imagine using this strobe technique to present an entire evening length ballet (story or abstract).
Tonight, though, it was also possible to see this innovative work from another perspective because it was presented in combination with Flames of Paris. Both are showcases for virtuosity, and both work very well for this purpose. Seen in this light (pun intended), perhaps Mr. Parsons should try his hand at extending Caught into a Pas de Deux.
Battle of the Games
Choreography by Cristina Latanzi and the Children of Casita Maria
Music by Astor Piazzola
Costume design and execution by Dennis Ballard
Girls: Ana Arias, Suleika Clase, Maria Diplan, Christine Garcia, Diana Marino, Kristina Rivera, Krystal Rivera, Cristina Simmons, Tiana Vasquez, Elizabeth Velez
Boys: Foster Alcantara, Corey Gamble, Scott Lebron, Harry Rosado, Steven Serrano, Ricardo Suliveres, Arisandro Torres, Luis Vasquez
The dancers range in age from 6 years to 12 years old.
This was a world premiere of a ballet created by the students of Make a Ballet. This work took common functional movements and turned them into art. They made good use of leap frog, jumping rope, hop scotch, basketball layups, and baseball pitching and hitting, among other motions.
After an initial sequence where each motion was presented by a small number of dancers, the whole group of girls presented one of their motions to the boys, who then presented one of their motions to the girls. These separate presentations were followed by the boys and girls presenting the motions together, as well as classic ballet positions.
I thought the choreography was nicely crafted. Plus, they used some of the same music that was used in Swango, so these are obviously kids with sophisticated taste.
Diana and Acteon
Choreography by Agrippina Vaganova
Music by Cesare Pugni, arranged by John Lanchbery
Dancers: Xiomara Reyes, Jose Manuel Carreño
In this final work of the evening, Ms. Reyes and Mr. Carreño were classical and assured. Her grace was well matched to his strength. It was another showcase of virtuosity. There was more display of pointe work and more impressive twirling. Ms. Reyes showed off some twirling as well just to prove that she can be strong as well as delicate.
In a touching bit of symmetry, for a while the audience could see one of the kids from the previous number looking on adoringly from the wings. It was an inspiring evening.