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Excerpt from 'The Petites'
'Tarantella' Pas de Deux
'Lady of the Camellias' Pas de Deux
A Meaty Marathon
by Mary Ellen Hunt
March 20, 2004 --
Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California
A refreshing program of small bites
and meatier fare showed off Diablo Ballet's stalwart core group of dancers
last weekend at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut
The company, which is in the midst of celebrating its 10th anniversary
season this year, has a habit of setting up high expectations and then
meeting them, and this mixed bill of five works had perhaps the best flow
and energy of any of their programs yet this season.
With five active dancers anchoring the show along with appearances by
the company's Artistic and co-Artistic Directors (Lauren Jonas and Nikolai
Kabaniaev) in a couple of key roles, every performance is like a marathon
in which they all must present themselves as conversant in a dizzying
variety of styles.
Take the central act of this last show, for instance, which was comprised
of three shorter pieces. Erika Johnson and Kabaniaev floated gloriously
through KT Nelson's dreamy modernistic duet to the music of Thomas Ade.
They were not dead-on precise, perhaps, but they gave heft and quality
to those skimming changes of weight.
In a more romantic, period mood, Tina Kay Bohnstedt and Jekyns Pelaez
were as elegantly and delicately etched as Bohnstedt's beautiful lace
wrap in a duet from Val Caniparoli's "Lady of the Camellias."
Set to the music of Frederic Chopin, it cannot help but recall John Neumeier's
ballet on the same subject and to the same music. But in both, the expressiveness
of the dancing is what is of paramount importance, and at that, Bohnstedt
and Pelaez melded together seamlessly.
Edward Stegge and Lauren Main reprised their turn in George Balanchine's
"Tarantella," which they performed a few months back at Zellerbach
Hall in Berkeley. This time, however, both seemed far more relaxed and
brighter, particularly in their faces. The demands of the non-stop technique
no longer appeared to weigh down their dancing, and although elements
probably could have been cleaner, the audience came away refreshed and
Two works staged by Kabaniaev bookended the show: one, an old classical
chestnut -- the "Jardin Anime" from "Le Corsaire"--
and the other, his own amusing contemporary gambol through the music of
Steve Martland's "Horses of Instruction."
The latter -- entitled "Olbaid" or "Diablo" spelled
backwards -- tapped into Kabaniaev's innate sense of the absurd, launching
at breakneck speed with an account of one man's struggle against his own
capricious limbs. Although there wasn't a bit of "horror-flick"
about it, I couldn't help but chuckle at the evocation of the camp slasher
film "Evil Dead 2" in which the hero must fight off his own
possessed hand. Maybe it was the tinge of 70's to Martland's wocka-wocka
Set against Richard Walston's watery projections on the cyc, the five
dancers (Bohnstedt, Johnson, Main, Pelaez, and Stegge) zip athletically
in and out of encounters and duets. In one particularly cute episode,
a pert Johnson taps for attention at Stegge's shoulder, and the back and
forth tit-for-tat that ensues was inexplicably hilarious.
The entire program opened with the "Le Corsaire" excerpt, which
brought twenty-four dancers from the young Contra Costa Ballet onto the
stage as a corps de ballet framework for Bohnstedt in the ballerina role
as Medora, and Main, Johnson, and Jonas dancing an interpolated scene
as the Odalisques.
Kabaniaev has an eye to coaching the style for the great classical ballets,
and given his Kirov roots, it's no surprise. The corps, composed of teenagers
from about 11 to 17 years old, gave this abstracted and decorative extract
a freshness which served as a lovely frame to the solid technique of the
Edited by Lori Ibay
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