Monday, November 18, 2013

Diablo Ballet

Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
November 15th, 2013

Diablo Ballet’s 20th Anniversary is in full gear! After opening this momentous season last weekend at Ohlone College’s Smith Center in Fremont, the company took the stage for three performances at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts. A mixed repertory evening, this first program featured three works; none were world premieres, but all were fairly new to the Diablo Ballet repertoire. This triple-bill serves as confirmation as to why this company continues to thrive in an uncertain artistic landscape – talented and dedicated technicians coupled with an artistic team that is committed to a diverse canon of work.

Up first was Mário Radačovský’s “Compulsive”, a short solo piece danced Friday evening by Derek Sakakura. Though brief in duration, “Compulsive” has a rich narrative. Control is the centerpiece – fighting for control, pretending to be in control, dealing with not being in control. Radačovský’s movement vocabulary aptly reflected the underlying message, with a clever combination of technique and humor. A recurring pas de basque sequence clearly spoke to the façade of control that we so often seek to convey. A terrific turner, Sakakura could not have been a better casting choice for this ballet. He is a perfect match for Radačovský’s choreography, which is full of dynamic and sometimes unusual turning combinations: pirouettes with one leg extended to the front at ninety degrees, double piqués ending in full arabesque.

Vicente Nebrada’s “Our Waltzes Trilogy” was next – a work for three couples that was accompanied live, and on stage, by pianist Roy Bogas. Waltzes are based in a three/four time signature, with the first beat of each bar serving as the dominant strong beat, and the two and three being weak beats. Because of this compositional structure, sometimes when choreography is set to a waltz, the two and the three get ‘thrown away’ and discarded. The triumph of Nebrada’s “Our Waltzes Trilogy” is that every beat of each measure was given equal attention and equal importance. And, the artists of the Diablo Ballet did a magnificent job translating that musical/choreographic connection onstage. Having said that, “Our Waltzes Trilogy” was perhaps one of the most difficult partnering pieces that I’ve seen in a long time. On a positive note, the duets were full of unexpected abandon and creativity. Though from time to time, the complexity of these variations did lead to some cumbersome moments. But these few instances did not take away from the work as a whole - Mayo Sugano sparkled with every piqué balance and the final unison sequence was danced brilliantly by the entire cast.
Photo: Aris Bernales
A witty and fun way to close a beautiful evening of dance, the 2013 edition of Sean Kelly’s “A Swingin’ Holiday” was the final work. With historic costumes, big band music (again, live accompaniment by Greg Sudmeier and the Diablo Ballet Swing Orchestra), and sexy, inventive movement, “A Swingin’ Holiday” looked like a scene from old Hollywood. The score was filled with different arrangements of holiday favorites, and the choreography, a wonderful fusion of styles (ballet, jive, social dance, jazz). Diablo Ballet is having a celebratory year and “A Swingin’ Holiday’s” festivity and merriment was right on point.  

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