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 Post subject: DIABLO BALLET WALNUT CREEK, CA 9/23/99
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 1999 7:56 am 
Another one previously seen on another board...<p>DIABLO BALLET WALNUT CREEK, CA 9/23/99<p>There are many things that make a performance by Diablo Ballet special and endearing to its fans. One is its insistence on using a live orchestra, an amazing feat when one considers that this is a small company with only eleven dancers. I believe a dance critic once said that choosing between an average live orchestra and good taped music is like choosing between an ugly child and a pretty doll and he would take the ugly child every time. Well, Diablo Ballet certainly also believes in the same philosophy and I can say that Diablo Ballet’s orchestra, under the baton of maestro Asher Raboy, is no ugly child, succeeding superbly this evening in the challenge set up for them by choreographer and Jose Limon star Gary Masters.<p>In the world premiere of Diablo Opus, Masters chose music from different genres to project different moods for each of the seven sections of his piece. Diablo Opus opens and ends with Philip Glass’ Quartet for Strings #5 and the dancers in sweeping sensualized depictions of restless everyday movements. While I know of several dance fans who are less than enamored of Philip Glass, I think even they would appreciate what Masters has done here by using Glass’ music as a base upon which contrasting moods are invoked through the introduction of other types of music. The arias by Cesti and Giordani for example, serenely sung – yes, live – by soprano Carole Klein, brings beauty and calm, that is reflected by the soothing touches and support the dancers give each other. Then there is the Astor Piazzola tango section in which Lauren Jonas and Nikolai Kabanaiev perform a tension-filled pas de deux that isn’t quiet a pas de deux, for the partners rarely touch and when they do, one faces away from the other. Here, choreographer Masters has cleverly created a dance that reflects not just the conflicts between the romantic partners but also the conflict of emotions within each individual character.<p>The most dramatically different bit of music included in this piece is by German punk band Netzer Ebb, which is the only music not performed live this evening. In this section, Kelly Teo gyrates through what seems like a primordial representation of intense emotional conflicts. If there has to be a star of the evening, then it must be Teo, who brings to this piece a style of dancing expressed more through the body than the intellect – he is a ballet-trained dancer who is able to absorb himself into the world of modern dance instead of just mimicking it. This segment of the dancing more than anything else makes me think that Diablo Opus is not so much about relationships but about what each individual brings to it.<p>Another reason I believe fans have taken to Diablo Ballet is the charisma and sheer joy of its dancers. Yes, we all know dancers love to dance but I think it is unique for a troupe to have performers who all seem to enjoy dancing with each other and to have pieces that take advantage of their unique personalities. And this may never be more clearly illustrated than in The Puzzle. This piece, created by N. Kabanaiev who also co-composed the music with Michael Bemesderfer, breaks down the human psyche into basic core components with each dancer portraying qualities that are inherent in each of them. There are for example Kelly Teo as a boyish figure who breaks from the pact, Corinne Jonas in a hilarious shower scene, Kyongho Kim with his loopy slow-motioned leaps, Viktor Kabanaiev as a deranged simian-man, Lauren Jonas with her slow nurturing gestures, and Erika Johnson in a revealing costume with only small swatches of blue cloth to protect her virtue (As an aside, having seen Johnson perform a series of sexually charged roles, I can now see why she was a muse of Christopher Bruce, creating roles such as the flirtatious girl in Sergeant Early’s Dream – she has a sexy woman-child quality not unlike that of Carole Baker in the movie Babydoll). The “personality projections” of each dancer were amusing, and once again, due to his witty choreography, Kabanaiev has created a piece that successfully detracts the audience from the technique employed by the dancers. I read somewhere that he is a choreographer with something to say. I must agree with that statement even if I personally found a few of the segments, especially the “shower scene”, somewhat protracted. And, one question begs to be asked. Can a piece like The Puzzle be effectively set on another company or on the same company in the future?<p>A third aspect of Diablo Ballet that I believe fans appreciate is the level of professionalism of its dancers. This I think was demonstrated by the ability of the dancers to cope with unforeseen last minute cast changes in Balanchine’s Pas de Dix, set on the company by Marina Eglevsky. As announced at curtain time, Karyn Lee Connell replaced Karen Portner in the lead and newcomer Tina Kay Bohnstedt made up for the position Connell vacated. Both Connell and Bohnstedt marshaled their new roles but more importantly, Connell’s partner, Kyongho Kim, was able to adjust to the differences in body types between Connell and Portner. However, not even the most discriminating balletomane can expect all the changes not to effect the performance, especially for a first performance by a company. As such, there were a few moments of adventure on stage, most of which were undetectable by the audience at large. If Eglevsky herself – I took a peek at her sitting a few rows behind me – seemed satisfied with the performance, who am I to complain? With a few more performances under its collective belt though, I think this company is capable of producing a much higher quality Pas de Dix.<p>Overall, the program was satisfying, offering a bit of everything for every shade of fan. And, this I believe is the ultimate key to The Puzzle that is Diablo Ballet, the reason why this young and small company has been filling out not only their home theater but also the massive Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. It performs what the fans like to see and it performs it well.<br>


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