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Neoclassical Masters: Ballet San Jose Review
By Gary Lemco
FOR ITS SECOND presentation for the 2013 season, this at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday’s matinee, March 24, Ballet San Jose offered a diversely athletic and musically compelling program of works by Ashton, Welch, and Tippet, with music by Auber, Massenet, Bach, and Bruch. Aside from the most conservative of the dances, that by Sir Frederick Ashton for Les Rendezvous, as arranged by Constant Lambert, the dances proved virile and sensuously powerful, a modern approach to the geometric and impressionistic responses to classical procedures as seen through a modern lens.
Ashton created Les Rendezvous in 1933, his first such enterprise in the medium. With a set of “pearly gates” in gold brocade, a series of couples danced to the rather insipid score by Daniel Auber, whose overtures I much prefer to this arrangement of L’Enfant prodigue. A principal couple (Mirai Noda and Alex Kramer) and six supporting dancers in pairs cavorted, flirted, pranced, and gamboled in a stylized, even affected, parody of the British lawn party. All were donned in white, so that the lifts gave the appearance of the women’s transformation into doves or social butterflies, whichever conceit better applies. Maykel Solas impressed with a series of “cavalier” moves that included his scissor leaps that ended on one knee, only to have him elevate to a series of brisk pirouettes. The image of the blindfolded lover may well have synthesized the metaphor of this ballet, the conceit of which Debussy used in his own Jeux. The music of Auber, a suite of gavottes and waltzes, had little melodic tissue but plenty of orchestral color, which conductor George Daugherty brought off with requisite flair.
Violinist Rachel Lee added a serenely elegant solo to the next selection, Massenet’s famed Meditation from Thais, arranged by Ashton, with Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun and Jeremy Kovitch as its principals. The female role involved a veiled seductress in a series of sensuous encounters with Kovitch’s muscular male wooer, with her discarding the veil temporarily to engage in blazing physical contact. The music and the lighting design (Jim French) conspired to hypnotize everyone in a virtually rarified, timeless moment of passion. Then, Nutnaree Pipit-Suksen re-acquired her veil, and with a series of ravishing turns, fled into the wings, having once more become “that obscure object of desire.”
Utilizing two violin concertos by J.S. Bach—the one in C Minor with Oboe, BWV 1060 and the G Minor Concerto, BWV 1056 first two movements—choreographer Stanton Welch celebrated in “Clear” the male form in a series of tableaux whose lighting (Jim French after Lisa Pinkham) made their vertical, solid torsos look like images from Gustav Moreau. The piece means to respond to the tragedy of 9/11, with bodies flowing, touching, and dissolving in tenuous symmetries. Geometrically nervous, the dance had the men in asymmetrical groupings, one or two against a mass, the gestures sudden and liquid as Jeremy Kovitch, James Kopecky, Damir Emric, Peter Hershey, Joshua Seibel, and Rudy Candia each made his personal statement in leaps and turns that seemed half ballet and half potent martial arts. With the support of Rachel Lee and oboe Pamela Hakl, the melancholy music of Bach gained a visual reality that insisted on taut lines, acrobatic gestures, and imposing masses contesting the individual and the collective power of action. For a brief moment, the fleeting figure of a female, Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun, appeared like an ephemeral wraith, to dislodge the male hegemony that had dominated the stage.
Last the Bruch G Minor Concerto, Op. 26 found human realization in Clark Tippet’s choreography, a suite of pas de deux that celebrate various colors – Aqua, Red, Blue, and Pink - as the rubric for encounters and culminations. The show stopper had to be Pink, danced for us by veteran Karen Gabay and Akira Takahashi. The four colors seem to correspond to the Four Humors – sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholy, and choleric – at various points, although most of the gestures and facial features were optimistic. Alexsandra Meijer rather stole the show with her arresting Blue, a lithe, long-limbed beauty who could gather herself in like a potential atom bomb and then unfold like a flower of good or evil. Any number of lifts had to be executed by the men, as the passionate music complemented the desire to overcome gravity, physical and spiritual. Once again, the musical collaboration between Rachel Lee ‘s solo and the orchestra under George Daugherty proved a triumph on its own, an aural moment of perfection that had human bodies as grace-notes. ♫
Dr. Gary R. Lemco is a regular contributor to Classical
Music Guide. He resides in California.
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