Ballet San Jose
by Heather Desaulniers
May 5, 2012 -- San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, San Jose, CA
Ballet San Jose has been all over the dance media in the past five months. A sudden shift in artistic leadership led to articles, speculation, an abundance of gossip and in this writer's opinion, an email campaign that was ill-conceived, and frankly, a little crazy. Only a few insiders truly know what happened or how it happened and what's done is done. Change is hard, but the time has come to leave the past behind, move forward and re-focus the attention on the company's future. The goal of this season has been to do just that and the final program of 2012 (the company premiere of Ben Stevenson's "Cinderella") confirmed a brilliant future for this South Bay institution.
Act I introduces the colorful and vibrant cast of characters, including Beth Ann Namey as the Stepmother, Maximo Califano and Ramon Moreno as the Stepsisters and of course Alexsandra Meijer as Cinderella. The acting parts are so rich in Stevenson's version of "Cinderella" and the company rose to the occasion with full physical and gestural immersion into each and every role. Cinderella's first solo captured her dualism with inventive boureé sequences that mimicked her chores (using her broom down toward the ground) coupled with multiple attitude piqué posés as the broom soared above her head into her dreamworld. Stevenson's choreography delved into the two sides within her persona, though the attitude step was perhaps a bit overused.
At the end of the first Act, Cinderella encounters her fairy godmother and begins her transformation from peasant girl to grand courtier, at which point we also meet four additional fairies, one for each season - spring, summer, autumn and winter. The autumn fairy's variation was the most interesting choreographically and the best danced of the bunch. Amy Marie Briones' dramatic and flawless turn combinations altered Cinderella's reality with a rich palette of excitement.
Act II mixed the grand and beautiful of a celebratory ball alongside the odd and comical of the jester and the cross-dressing stepsisters. The corps couples all moved with a floating quality: turning lifts; and trios off-set by low movements on one side and high relevés on the other. Act II also ushered in the first appearance of guest artist Sascha Radetsky as Prince Charming. Radetsky doesn't just play this part, he really is Prince Charming, easily displaying the required regal demeanor and technical virtuosity. The first pas de deux between Radetsky and Meijer expressed elated joy and utter bliss and it was wonderful to see that the choreographic highlight of Radetsky's solo variation was not a grand jump, but rather his perfectly sharp batterie.
The final short Act follows Prince Charming's search for his true love and after finding Cinderella, their marriage. Prior to that last vignette, Radetsky and Meijer danced a second pas de deux that spoke to both the course and journey that they had traveled thus far as well as the promise of their future (very a propos for Ballet San Jose). Even though not much time elapses in their story, here they looked older, assured and much more secure in each other. A purposely different feel than their initial meeting, Stevenson has the two characters creating shapes in space as equal partners; a true team. Aside from this nuanced narrative, this final pas de deux was incredibly demanding from a technical perspective, much like true love. It is difficult, complete, complicated and transcendent.