Sunday, November 27, 2011

Diablo Ballet - 18th Season

Photo by Ashraf
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
November 18, 2011

Diablo Ballet celebrated its 18th season last weekend at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek with a three piece program that spoke to the company's breadth of skill and vision.  A meeting of classical ballet and contemporary sensibility, Dominic Walsh's duet "Le Spectre de la Rose" opened the evening, danced by Rosselyn Ramirez and Domenico Luciano.  A recent addition to the Diablo Ballet repertory, Walsh has retained the traditional choreographic feel of Michel Fokine's 1911 work, highlighting the technical beauty of the ballet lexicon.  Luciano's performance as the rose was triumphant - the dramatic flexibility of his feet and the buoyancy in his ballon astounding.  But Walsh did update the ballet by injecting a newness and nuanced spin into the story.  The pas de deux between the rose and the girl had a more mysterious and edgier quality than many other versions.  Here, we saw a slightly devilish side to the usual chivalrous male character.  There was a level of manipulation and imposed control to the point that the girl eventually took on some of the rose's movements.  Walsh was alluding to the darker side of relationships and perhaps commenting on our tendency to keep these negative interactions hidden away.

Next was the world premiere of Val Caniparoli's new ballet, which offered an intense and beautiful study of suspension and release.  A chamber piece for Mayo Sugano, Derek Sakakura, Hiromi Yamazaki and Robert Dekkers, "Tears From Above" follows the pathway of the limbs as they travel out from the core, reach their point of suspension and grow into a continuous shape.  This melty tension was then contrasted with an equal and dramatic treatment of weighted release: weight in the body, weight in the air and the harnessing of those forces into choreographed movement.  This suspension/release theme remained consistent throughout the different moods and tempi of Elena Kats-Chernin's music.  The opening and middle sections had a sinuous, pulling quality followed by a very grounded allegro movement.  "Tears From Above" was a gorgeous musing on oppositional physical forces, but more than anything, it demonstrated that Caniparoli's choreography is an all-in exercise - with his work, there is no half-way.

Rounding out the program was Septime Webre's 1995 composition, "Fluctuating Hemlines".  Set to a percussion score, the entire ballet is an exciting staccato attack of the space with a two-fold concept.  First is a very clear comment on the notion of appearance and reality.  The men begin in dapper suits and the women in dresses and wigs; however, this initial costuming is short-lived (the women do put their wigs back on from time to time). The rest of the work finds the cast having shed their armor in favor of plain, yet revealing white tank-tops and shorts.  This is a shedding of pretense, of fakeness, and of expectation and so, a fluctuation between the real and the imaginary.  Second, and perhaps more literally, the technique itself fluctuated between various styles and genres.  Though the women remained on pointe for the duration of the work, there were instances of classical ballet, modern dance and even some good old-fashioned jazz.  "Fluctuating Hemlines" contains some of Webre's signature moves (his uniquely athletic jump sequences), but this fifteen-year-old piece is a little riskier - in a good way - than some of his current work.   

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