Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary’s, wonderfully refreshing Los Angeles Ballet opened their 2018/19 season at the Alex Theatre on Saturday, October 6, with the prolific and brilliant Aszure Barton’s Les Chambres des Jacques. Barton is an eclectic inventive artist and choreographic activist, who in this piece combines Québécois folk rhythms and voice of Gilles Vigneault, and Les Yeux Noire, which were then soothed with the lush beauty of Vivaldi, and the humanity of the Cracow Klezmer Band. The cadences and pulse-like heartbeat, so beautifully executed by the now seasoned dancers of Los Angeles Ballet, was not only splendidly performed but enchanting to experience. The intelligent and courageous leadership of Christensen and Neary, L.A. Ballet’s Artistic Directors, and Julie Whittaker, Executive Director, is insistent that Los Angeles have their own ballet company…and succeed they have, as was revealed on Saturday.
Tobin Del Cuore staged Barton’s signature choreography with devotional zeal, making sure, as Barton would, that every part of the body was addressed down to the eyes, face, mouth, and fingers. The breadth of the work was eloquently executed by the dancers Joshua Brown, Laura Chachich, Magnus Christoffersen, Dallas Finley, Madeline Houk, Leah McCall, Costache Mihai, Jasmine Perry; with special mention of Clay Murray’s surprising, wonderfully loose and rhythmic opening that mesmerized the audience with dance which came deeply from inside him. Another highlight was the wonderful pas de quatre, danced by Petra Conti, Tigran Sargsyan, Bianca Bulle, and Kenta Shimizu which delighted us with their unusual playfulness that moved shoulders, hips and bodies rolling together and apart with unanticipated changes. And with that, an amazing, subtle and soulful solo by Sargsyan to the Cracow Klezmer Band which harkened back to the shtetles of Eastern Europe as though it was clear to him the feeling of a heritage long gone.
As if this were not dessert enough for us all, we were then treated to Alejandro Cerrudo’s sensual stand out piece, Lickety-split, which examined the dynamics of three couples, their interplay between each other and the group as a whole. Jasmine Perry, so beautifully partnered by Dallas Finley, was exquisite in her seamless interplay, her smooth transitions, and effortless soulful relationship with her partner done to the quiet sometimes raspy tones of Devendra Banhart, Equally langorous, was the smooth movements, as if on ice, drawn by the facile partnership of Tigran Sargsyan, and Bianca Bulle, Joshua Brown and Leah McCall. A kind of Greek chorus on the floor followed the scintillating Dallas Finley’s expressive and impassioned solo.
Both the Barton and Cerrudo pieces alone would be a gift of creativity and brilliance, yet the last thank you by the entire company doing Balanchine, the Western Symphony, happily ended our joyous evening. This piece requires strength, endurance, charm, technique and…fun! It appears quaint and classic, yet a gift of another time, when cowboys and dancing girls were an accepted part of the American West in the mind of Mr. B. Restaged by Colleen Neary, who clearly understands the work of George Balanchine, having worked closely with this Master during some of his most prolific years. It is through Neary we get the essence of his work and his legacy.
The corps did a fine job of creating superb energy as towns-folk, all the way to the rousing finale. In the first coupling we’re delighted by strong and lyrical Laura Chachich. She shares the stage with the talented, technically marvelous dancer, Eris Nesha, who charmed the audience with his sense of play, his strong presence and engaging charm, which was quite reminiscent of the young Edward Villella. In the second movement, the wonderful Petra Conti, and Tigran Sargsyan, took the lead in their engaging, pas de deux, with Bianca Bulle and Kenta Shimizu’s sparkling and flirtatious third movement. Bianca Bulle leads us through the iconic diagonal in competition with her partner to lead the entire company into the iconic pirouettes from fifth as the curtain goes down on the continuing dance which appears to go on forever.
My hope is that it will go on forever with the grand legacy of the growing and thriving Los Angeles Ballet.
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