Ballet San Jose's New VIsions by Gary Lemco

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Ballet San Jose's New VIsions by Gary Lemco

Post by Lance » Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:11 am

Ballet San Jose’s New Visions
By Gary Lemco

A “PROGRAM OF PREMIERS” provided the rubric for Ballet San Jose’s dazzling array of offerings, jointly created by new artistic directors Raymond Rodriguez and Wes Chapman, for the series April 13-15, 2012 presented at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The “veteran” of the showcase for the ensemble proved to be George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, set to Tchaikovsky’s truncated Third Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, Op. 73. A pity that the energetic dancers had no live orchestra, and all the pieces had to be realized through commercial recordings. Still, the Clark Tippet’s setting of the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 had the passionate collaboration of Itzhak Perlman with Bernard Haitink. For the most part, the selections celebrated the male form in ballet, though the most visually arresting piece, Splendid Isolation III, choreographed by Jessica Lang, utilized the searing music of Mahler’s Adagietto from his Fifth Symphony for a highly sexualized pas de deux between Maria Jacobs-Yu and Ramon Moreno. To complete the afternoon, we had the music of J.S. Bach—his Concerto in C Minor for Violin and Oboe and two movements from his G Minor Violin Concerto—itself an arrangement from his F Minor Klavier Concerto, choreographed by Stanton Welch as Clear, a testament to the tragedy of 9/11.

Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, as staged by Elyse Borne, played as a kind of kinetic etude for dancers, grouped in geometric forms, symmetrical and angular, as required. Leaps, pirouettes, and the general resistance to gravity dominated the pliant figures, occasionally permitted a grand gesture in the manner of Imperial Ballet. Athletic and eminently youthful, the sparkling romp set to Tchaikovsky’s often bombastic and glittery music set the sanguine tone of the afternoon.

The Mahler Adagietto added another major star of the performances, the wonderfully wrought lighting effects. A spotlight opened on a shimmering, dominant white gown and its expansive train—courtesy of designer Elena Comendador—that evolved from a royal pillar, to a cocoon, to a veil, and then to a shroud. The use of gauze or fabric to characterize a relationship is not new to ballet—Martha Graham mastered it—but the imposing Ms. Jacobs-Yu held her pose with singular imperiousness as Moreno alternately groveled and hurled himself into her incandescent web. A metaphor for Mahler’s tormented relationship to Anna Schindler, who later became Mrs. Mahler? At times, the poses assumed the manner of a Klimt study of sexual surrender, while the lighting either intensified the white gown or revealed its sullen contours.

Clear (2001) by Stanton Welch purports to be about “life’s connections,” the choreographer’s claiming that the events of 9/11 inspired the study for male dancers and one woman. Alexsandra Meijer provided the female element into the male mix that swayed and assembled in “fearful symmetry” to the music of Bach. The middle movement of the C minor Concerto for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060 alone encourages a metaphor of two seaweed making love, but the sequence remained homo-erotic. If the “story line” contains a tragic muse beyond the Bach musical figures, it went past me. Even the reference to 9/11 seems extrinsic to a series of gestures that accept the feminine principle as a consolation in a nostalgic universe.

Clark Tippet’s setting of the passionate Bruch Concerto in G Minor, here premiered by the Ballet San Jose, calls itself a “tutu ballet in the classical mold with no plot.” But given Bruch’s massive pedal points and long, yearning melodies, the dancers had many opportunities to exert stunning lifts out of Cirque du Soleil for athletic prowess and gymnastic invention. The sheer muscularity of principals Maximo Califano, Jeremy Kovitch, Maykel Solas, and Ramon Moreno supplied a granite foundation for the females—Amy Marie Briones, Mirai Noda, Juana Ige, and Alexsandra Meijer—to use for airborne pyrotechnics of their own. Still, the men dominated this afternoon, in their often skin-tight pants and bare torsos, rippling with elemental, feral power.

Come to think of it, even the figure of Alma Mahler assumed an androgynous or literally phallic potency in that white stamen of a dress in Splendid Isolation III . A Spring ceremonial or rite, this afternoon of ballet. All it lacked was Stravinsky’s imprimatur. ♪

Dr. Gary A. Lemco regularly contributes to
Classical Music Guide. He lives in California

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