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BALLET SAN JOSÉ GOES NEOCLASSICAL
By Iride Aparicio

Pictures by Robert Shomler
    LES RENDEZVOUS ENSEMBLE

LES RENDEZVOUS ENSEMBLE with SOLAS y BRIONES at the center

SAN JOSÉ, CA. –  “Neoclassical Ballets,” was a name given  to the  Russian Ballets of Sergei Diaghilev. (l872-l929) one of the world’s greatest cultural Russian impresarios and one of the founders of the Mir Iskusstva  (The World of Art) a journal that allowed Russians to become acquainted with the latest developments of the Western Visual Arts.  

Diaghilev’s claim to fame, however, was the organization of a series of concerts in Paris (l907) which he called "The Russian Seasons,” where the great Russian composers such as Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov among others, conducted their own works. The most successful part of  “The Seasons,” however, were the Ballet performances   in l909 where Diaghilev engaged the best composers, choreographers and the best Western and European ballet dancers.  

The term “Neoclassical Ballets” appeared in l920 to name a type of ballet which draws its technique from the l9th century Russian Imperial dances but strips from them the detailed narrative of the classical ballets and their heavy sets, leaving on the stage a dance that is modern, yet retains the classicism of the pointe ballet steps.

On its second program of its Season, Ballet San José presented four Neoclassical Masters:  The company premier of  LES RENDEZVOUS, MÉDITATION FROM THAIS, CLEAR and BRUCH VIOLIN CONCERTO No 1.

LES RENDEZVOUS

LES RENDEZVOUS, choreographed by the late Sir FREDERICK ASHTON (1904-l988),  who was the choreographer most responsible for the growth of ballet in modern-day England. The work was danced to the music of DANIEL FRANCOUIS ESPRIT AUBER, (1782-l871)  (The Score based upon L’enfant prodigue). The work uses a solo oboist  who on that night was PAMELA HAKL.

The choreography was simple: an elaborate white iron gate imitating a garden’s fence. The style of the ballet may be consider romantic and the  different "romances" are fun to watch:

The ballet is danced by a principal couple, who was danced on Saturday by AMY MARIE BRIONES  and principal BSJ dancer MAYKEL SOLAS. A Pas de Trois,  danced by JUNNA IGE, with ALEX KRAMER AND FRANCISCO PRECIDO, six couples dancing in ensemble roles, and 4 little girls.

The ballet represents a gathering of white- dressed dancers, each couple enterint the stage individually, from opposite directions accompanied by very fast music. They  meet  at the center of the stage and greet each other by bending towards each other, kissing each other of the cheek, or simply by ignoring each other.
The entrance of the dancers sets the mood for the ballet.  It seems funny, yet it is difficut for the dancers because the music is very fast.  Because of this all their movements must to be fast spins, fast plies, fast jumps. On that night, many dancers solved the problem  by not dancing on the beat.

The star of this ballet was MAYKEL SOLAS which entered the stage doing a solo of  fast high jumps and side splits. SOLAS was among the few dancers in the whole piece who danced on the beat. His last solo at the end was great. For her performance, BRIONES also got a hand that night as she spinned rapidly around the stage in pointe.

The choreography of the ballet, (ASHTON) is both fluid and graceful and in spite of the large number of dancers,  it allows the audience to focus on the principal dancers by having the other couples around them stay motionless or sitting down on the stage.

MÉDITATIONS FROM  THAÏS

MÉDITATIONS FROM  THAÏS

JEREMY KOVITCH and NUTNAREE PIPIT-SKSUN as THAÏ

Also choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton, Méditations, danced to “Méditation, Andante Religioso, from Taïs” written by Operatic composer  JULES MASENET, (l842-l912), is a short ballet based on an interesting concept. Thaïs is a man’s meditation on a woman by that name, who exist only in his imagination.  Danced by JEREMY KOVITCH and NUTNAREE PIPIT-SUKSUN  the dance is interpreted on a bare stage with a black starry sky on the background. 

The dance begins with KOVITCH alone on the stage doing a slow dance to indicate his  thinking about her.  After he creates her image in his mind, she NUTNAREE, enters the stage with her face covered a veil and starts dancing around him. After a while, she removes her veil and they dance together a fluid pas de deux slow and sensual in its movements. As they dance, KOVITCH’s  passion begins  raising as she dances next to him. The dance ends when she kisses him.  He remains lost in ecstasy for a few seconds staring at her. NUTNAREE  picks up her veil, covers her face and  begins to recede. 

It is a sensual dance and on that night both dancers were able to create the Eastern mysticism by dancing their roles convincingly. KOVITCH in his slow-motion steps showed his bewilderment and NUTNAREE  moving in a ghostly fashion, dancing in punte, conveyed to the audience the  illusory figure she represented.  The danced received an ovation.

CLEAR

CLEAR 1

The men cast of CLEAR with AKIRA TAKAHASHI at the center

Choreographed by Houston Ballet’s Artistic Director STANTON WELCH,  with music from the Concerto in C minor for Oboe, Violin and Strings ((movements I,II and III) from JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH ( l685-l750), CLEAR is not a story. The ballet is a combination of Classical and Neoclassical styles which are demonstrated by the straight forward shapes of the arms and legs, the spinning of their heads and necks, and the “strange” things their limbs do within the traditional ballet’s framework.

In its choreography, which requires acting and emotion, the work intends to create a mood. The first man (AKIRA TAKAHASHI) represent the amalgamation of all the other men on stage.  Each man representing a part of him: his sensitivity, his doubt, his sadness, his arrogance. The purpose of the  woman, danced on that night by ALEXSANDRA MEIJER, who appears through the different movements of the dance, is to illuminate the man’s perspective and imbue each with love.

CLEAR 2
 ALEXSANDRA MEIJER as the woman in CLEAR

While CLEAR is not centered in the events of 9/ll, STATON, its choreographer, was in New York on day. What he saw taught him that when you are faced with that kind of trauma, you immediately think of your loved ones. Maybe to express that idea, the he final scene in this ballet is a pas de deux.

The ballet as presented that night was rhythmic, the 7 men dancing with bare chests, danced together in perfect synchronization.  Their dance consisted in high jumps, straight bodies and different arms movements, arms stretched, arms on their backs, spinning their heads over their chests, In her part, MEIJER danced mostly alone (with the men behind her doing different movements.

The choreography of the piece was creative and allowed the audience to see the different dancers and the different combination of dances: Duets, Pas de Trois, Pas de quatre.  The dances were not danced in rhythm but for its masterly in tecnique, it was the only number in the program that got BRAVOS.

BRUCH VIOLIN CONCERTO NO 1

The choreographer in this ballet was CLARK TIPPET, the composer MAX BRUCH  The stager DAVID RICHARSON and the principal  8 dancers: JUNNA IGE and MAYKEL SOLAS, AMY MARIE BRIONES and MAXIMO CALIFANO, ALEXSANDRA MEIJER and JEREMY KOVITCH, and MIRAI NODA and AKIRA TAKAHASHI. They danced backed by the corps de ballet.

This dance displays the best things about CLARK TIPPET among them: his mastery of choreography, his sense of humor and his unique ideas about ballets. The work reflects the old tradition of tutu ballet but never as a parody. BRUCH never strys for the classical tradition, yet employs an array of unusual lifts and quirky mannerisms.

The Ballet is danced by sixteen dancers half of  them principal couples wearing contrasting colors. The couple in red, (BRIONES and CALIFANO) danced to fast exciting music. For the couple in Aqua, IGE y SOLAS, the music was cool and beautiful.  The melodies were sensual and romantic. the couple in blue ( MEIJER and KOVITCH) and effervescent for the couple in pink (NODA and TAKAHASHI). 

At the roll of a drum, the dancers start dancing in a celebration which includes fast and slow movements, pirouettes, fish figures, Jumps, rapid spins, accompanied by the corps de ballet, or as duets. It shows ballet in its many faces, its controls, its technique. It shows it as a dance form of many ways to express itself.

BRUCH VIOLIN CONCERTO
 SOLAS and IGE in Aqua,, BRIONES and CALIFANO in red and MEIJER in blue at stage back center in BRUCH VIOLIN CONCERTO

The orchestra played well specially the two solo players:  PAMELA HAKL, Oboist and violinist RACHEL LEE, and while the dancers the four ballets were superb, they could have been less taxed  as dancers  if GEORGE DAUGHERTY, the Music Director/Conductor had slowed down the tempo of the music of composer DANIEL FRANCOIS ESPRIT AUBER in LES RANDEZVOUS, the first ballet.  On that night, the music was played so fast by the orchestra that only a few dancers, one of them SOLAS,  were able to dance on the beat. Perhaps, during rehearsals, Maestro DAUGHERTY could observe the dancers while they dance, and as Music Director and Conductor,  slow-down the music's tempos in some of their ballets to allow the dancers to execute their steps in rhythm with the music, without overtaxing themselves physically.

 
 
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