Saturday, July 23, 2022

Summer Gala of "The Art of Classical Ballet" (AoCB). By Baltasar Santiago Martín, edited by Roberto Bauta

Aurora Chinchilla and Keynald Vergara 
at pas de deux Diana and Actaeon.
 Photo: Abelardo Reguera.

On Saturday night, June 25, 2022, I traveled from Hialeah to the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, to attend the Summer Gala of "The Art of Classical Ballet" (AoCB), formerly known as Florida Classical Ballet, both under the artistic direction of the prestigious maitre Magaly Suárez with the valuable support of her assistant Ibis Montoto.

The performance began with the pas de six of the ballet La Vivandiere, choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon / Fanny Cerrito and music by César Pugni, in which Gustavo Ribeiro more than satisfied the challenge of being the partner of five beautiful and well-trained dancers: Aurora Chinchilla, Florie Geller, Jenna Potvin, Anna Thomashoff and Juliana Wilder; the six with admirable coupling, synchronization and elegance, from the beautiful costumes to the smallest details of the choreography, pas de deux of Aurora and Gustavo and the whole group included.

La Vivandiere: Gustavo Ribeiro and Aurora Chinchilla; GR with Florie Geller, Jenna Potvin, Anna Thomashoff and Juliana Wilder; final greetings. Photos: Abelardo Reguera.

Leaving behind the Hungarian countryside where La Vivandiere takes place, April White and Raisel Cruz went on stage to relive the adage of pas de deux from the second act of Swan Lake, with music by Chaikosvki and choreography by Marius Petipa.

In this first meeting between Prince Siegfried and Odette, the princess turned into a swan by the evil Von Rothbart has recovered the human form for a short time, and April had it in mind, because she did not abuse the port de bras as other dancers usually do in this adage. With only slight reminiscent flutters she remembered her bewitched condition, both in her solos and when Raisel / Siegfried partners her with absolute elegance and class throughout the adage, plus some arabesques penchés without apparent effort that marked her beautiful performance as Odette.

April White and Raisel Cruz,
 in the adage of the second act of Swan Lake.
 Photos: Abelardo Reguera.

And from the second act of Swan Lake, Mia Bianchi, Florrie Geller and Jorge Alejandro Boza returned us to the first, with its pas de troi – which not for not being for the protagonist couple as the previous pas de deux lacks less technical and interpretative rigor – in which the three showed off in their respective variations and in the very well coordinated work as a trio.

Mia Bianchi, Florrie Geller and Jorge Alejandro Boza at pas de troi of Swan Lake first act. Photo: Abelardo Reguera.

From that world of enchanted swans, the magic of ballet took us to the world of the Roman mythological gods – copied and "edited" from the Greeks – to enjoy Diana and Actaeon, a pas de deux with music by Ricardo Drigo, choreographed and incorporated by Petipa in 1886 to his version of the ballet Esmeralda, choreographed by Jules Perrot (1844), but in which Agrippina Vaganova also put her expert hand.

According to Roman mythology, Diana – usually depicted as a hunter, with a bow and arrow – was bathing naked when she surprised the shepherd Actaeon contemplating her "curiously". Angrily, she shot him with an arrow, seriously injuring him, and in one of those metamorphoses so common in Greco-Roman mythology, Acteon turned into a deer, and Diana's hunting dogs fell on him and devoured him.

Fortunately, this pas de deux is limited to Diana moving with her bow, and Actaeon trying to dodge her gaze – and her arrows – by hiding behind her arms...; "pretexts" for its performers to shine, with great air displacements – especially "Actaeon" – evident proof of the influence on the Russian ballet of the Italian technique taught by Enrico Cecchetti.

The brilliant Aurora Chinchilla and the gifted Keynald Vergara were in charge of reviving this Greco-Roman mythological story.

Aurora was attentive at all times to her role as the hunter Diana, and satisfied the demanding choreography with total bravery, with beautiful arabesques, sustained balances and elegant and precise jettés; and fouettés "nailed" in the place, interspersed with pirouettes, at the height of her variation, while Keynald spun his partnership with total verticality – as it should be – and his variation was absolutely dazzling, because his jumps did not lack height nor even almost horizontal acrobatic somersaults. His dizzying turns were also impressive.

Aurora Chinchilla and Keynald Vergara 
at pas de deux Diana and Actaeon.
 Photos: Abelardo Reguera.

Both left the stage very hot after the "flight" of Actaeon pursued by the vengeful Diana, to make way for Sophie Poulain and Ethan Rodríguez, who danced the pas de deux of Genzano Flower Festival (Auguste Bournonville / music by Helsted & Pauli), faithful to the essence of the Bournonville style, which demands from both a work of feet of great cleanliness and agility.

Ethan, in his role as her partenaire, was extremely helpful so that his patner could shine as she did, with good extensions and exemplary musicality.

Sophie Poulain and Ethan Rodríguez at pas de deux of Genzano Flower Festival. Photo: Courtesy of AoBC.

Sophie Poulain and Ethan Rodríguez 
at pas de deux of Genzano Flowers Festival.
 Photos: Abelardo Reguera.

This pas de deux was followed by “Satanella”’s, from The Carnival of Venice – music by Cesare Pugni on a theme by Paganini and original choreography by Marius Petipa – by Juliana Wilder and Gustavo Ribeiro, who gave us a perfect adage, with great musicality and showy and sustained lifts of Juliana by Ribeiro.

In their respective variations, Gustavo shone, both for his high jumps – with somersaults in the air included – and for his quick turns and entrechats, while Juliana, in turn, did not spare her technical pyrotechnics either, with sustained balances, admirable extensions and grand jettés, with fouettés as a climax.

In the coda, both were superb, with Gustavo kneeling before Juliana in a surrendered embrace as a nice culmination.

Juliana Wilder and Gustavo Ribeiro 
at pas de deux of Satanella.
Photos: Abelardo Reguera.

Next, Daynelis Muñoz as Odile and the long-awaited and always surprising Taras Domitro as Prince Siegfried, assumed the pas de deux "The Black Swan", from the ballet Swan Lake, with music by Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, as was already given when its second and first act.

Both, in very colorful costumes, approached the adage with impetus, as well as a happy remembrance of Odette's port de bras by Daynelis to confuse and make Siegfried forget his oath of love to the bewitched princess of the lake.

Daynelis Muñoz as Odile and Taras Domitro as Sigfried at pas de deux “Black Swan” of Swan Lake. Photo: Courtesy of AoCB.

Daynelis Muñoz as Odile and Taras Domitro as Sigfried 
at pas de deux “Black Swan” of Swan Lake.
 Photo: Courtesy of AoCB.

In the variations, Taras adorned his jumps with the grand jettés and "scissors" forward that are already his own brand, absolutely unobjectionable, while Daynelis, very musical, showed off with an oval of fast piqués, to then face the litmus test of this pas de deux: the expected 32 fouettés, which, although interspersed with pirouettes, she ended up displaced.

Taras Domitro as Sigfried at pas de deux “Black Swan” of Swan Lake. Photo: Courtesy of AoCB.

Artists as they are, their coda was impeccable, although I recommend them to greet in character, especially Odile, who is a diabolical creature, no showing kindness or even smiling.

Note: As a very personal consideration, I recommend "editing, pruning" the second variation of Odile after the fouettés, which breaks musically and choreographically, in my opinion, the unity of the act, especially when Daynelis seemed that she improvised the choreography, to top it off.

The second part of the program was scheduled to the second act of the ballet La Bayadera, with choreography by Marius Petipa, music by the Austrian Ludwig Minkus and libretto by Sergei Kuschelok and Marius Petipa himself, inspired by two dramas by the Hindu poet Kalidasa (the word "bayadera" had its origin when the Portuguese navigators, between the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries, arrived to India and called "bailadeiras” to the "devadasi", women consecrated to dance by religion, from where it has derived "bayaderas").

The premiere of La Bayadera took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1877, and this ballet can be considered as a late sequel to Romanticism, characterized by a fascination with medieval legends and exotic themes, as is the case with the ballet in question.

In order to best understand the second act that was presented, I consider it appropriate to get to know a synthesis of the whole argument:

The bayadera Nikiya is in love with Prince Solor and is reciprocated by him, but Solor agrees to marry Gamzatti, the evil daughter of the ruling Rajah. At the same time, the Great Brahmin (highest priest of the Brahmanical religion) also desires Nikiya and hates Solor.

Gamzatti introduces a poisonous asp snake into a basket of flowers that his maid sends to Nikiya, who believes it was sent her by Solor. The asp bites her, and the Great Brahmin offers her an antidote, but Nikiya, seeing Solor and Gamzatti together, refuses to take it him and dies. This happens in the real world.

Desperate for the death of the beautiful bayadera – and under the influence of opium – Solor sees Nikiya in the Kingdom of Shadows (the unreal world), dead and her image multiplied by specters of bayaderas. Next to her, Solor evokes her dance before the Sacred Flame. The warrior continues to be trapped by Nikiya's fascinating sight when his companions appear to prepare him for the wedding.

Under the shadow of the Great Buddha, a bronze idol dances while the Great Brahmin and the priests prepare the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom make their entrance surrounded by bayaderas, who perform a ritual dance: symbol of the Sacred Flame that shines before the temple. The Rajah, Gamzatti, and Solor dance, but the warrior is continually assailed by Nikiya's sight.

During the dances, a basket with flowers mysteriously appears, identical to the one that caused Nikiya's death; Gamzatti, terrified and tormented by guilt, asks her father to rush the ceremony.

The Great Brahmin pronounces the sacred rites, in the midst of Solor's indecision. The gods, furious, unleash their revenge: the temple and everyone present are destroyed. The souls of Nikiya and Solor are finally united in an eternal love.

Going back now to the subject matter of this review, I want to congratulate Magaly Suárez and Ibis Montoto – as I did and wrote when they presented the first and second acts of the ballet in 2019 – "for the great challenge assumed – and fulfilled – of putting on this second act of La Bayadera, especially the scene of the 'Kingdom of Shadows', that, within the tradition of white ballets, it is considered a world choreographic glory; especially for the entrance of 24 dancers (in this ocassion they were only 12), like specters of bayaderas, dancing a series of arabesques.

"Although the 24 dancers in the original choreography were not there, the fact that 12 ballet female dancers – many of them still students of Magaly – achieved the perfection, synchronism and elegance that I could enjoy in that performance, is something worthy of commendation and praise, at the level of any company with more resources and financial support", I finished my quote of 2019, fully applicable on this new occasion.

Juliana Wilder and Raisel Cruz, as the vengeful Gamzatti and the fickle Solor, "embroidered" their pas de deux since beginning to end, with luxurious costumes and adequate makeup, both accompanied by a very coupled dance corps, which in all the required combinations such as Pas de quatre, Pas de Action and Pas de trois, assumed their choreographies with total elegance and excellent technical performance, just like Mia Arroyo– accompanied by the precocious and talented girls Sara Marin and Jenna Potvin – as Manu, in the funny dance with the amphora on her head.

Juliana Wilder and Raisel Cruz, as Gamzatti and Solor, at La bayadera. Photo: Abelardo Reguera

Juliana Wilder and Raisel Cruz, as Gamzatti and Solor, at La bayadera. Photo: Abelardo Reguera.
Mia Arroyo as Manu, at La Bayadera.
Photo: Courtesy of AoCB.

In "The Kingdom of Shadows", I reiterate my admiration for the unexcelled sequence of arabesques of the bayaderas cloned by the opiate imagination of Solor, and I take off my hat myself before Julia Conway and Daniel McCorwick, as Nikiya and Solor, for their pas de deux so virtuous, in addition to an exemplary “partneo” by Daniel, with lifts included, both with a beautiful line, without any fail to mention when they had to interact with that great veil or white cloth that could have caused them some setback, but not at all.

Julia Conway and Daniel McCorwick with the 12 bayaderas at “The Kingdom of Shadows” of La bayadera. Photo: Courtesy of AoCB.

Julia Conway and Daniel McCorwick, at pas de deux of “The Kingdom of Shadowss” of La bayadera. Foto: Cortesía de AoCB.

I conclude with my thanks to Magaly, Ibis, Adiarys, Taras and all the hardworking and gifted dancers involved, for so much devotion to the art of ballet, and their admirable artistic and aesthetic results.

Baltasar Santiago Martin
Hialeah, July 4, 2022
"Independence Day of the United States"

Versión en español

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