Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino

"Ecos," "Coppelia Pas de Deux," "Casta Diva," "Le Corsaire," "Desde Lejos" & "Piazzolla Tango Viva"

Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, Brookville, NY, November 8, 2002, 8 p.m.
and Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, NY, November 10, 2002, 2 p.m.

By Kate Snedeker

Julio Bocca and the fifteen dancers of Ballet Argentino danced across the stages of New York (with a stop in Bridgeport, CT in between) the weekend of November 8-10. The weekend started out at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on the CW Post campus of Long Island University in Brookville, NY. Unfortunately, the Tilles Center is not an ideal setting for dance, and the performance was hampered by the small, elevated dance stage, which was set upon the regular stage, and the peculiar acoustics of the arena-like theatre.

The performance opened with Rosana Perez and Julio Bocca in Mauricio Wainrot's Ecos, a duet to Barber's Adagio for Strings. The ballet loosely follows the story of two lovers as they meet in the night, "get together, discover each other; they love and follow an imaginary route." Carlos Galliardo's dark blue and black unitards were well suited to the elegant simplicity of the dancing and highlighted the long lines of both performers.

As danced by Perez and Bocca, the ballet was clearly about mature love, and one could see this relationship expressed in the relaxed, flowing quality of the dancing. With nearly perfect timing in the partnering, one could believe that these were intimate lovers who knew each other's bodies well. The lighting (un-credited) enhanced the feeling of intimacy as it focused on the two dancers, bathing them in a gentle glow, with the darkness around them giving an illusion of a wall, a wall through which the audience was getting a glimpse at a private scene. The connection between the two dancers was captured in one brief moment when the circle formed by their arms, hands clasped, was illuminated from behind and above. It was a powerful image of connection that needed no further illumination of body or face to convey emotion. And hand in hand, the dancers left the stage, to "follow an imaginary Route."

After Ecos, the program proceeded with the Coppelia Pas de Deux, accompanied by the familiar Delibes music. Re-choreographed by A. Lojos after Arthur Saint Leon, the ballet was well staged, but not completely suited to the technical level of Stephanie Bauger and Vincenzo Capezzutto's dancing (which was obviously affected by the stage on Friday night). The two dancers, though pleasantly youthful and energetic, were mismatched in size and, not surprisingly, had difficulties with some of the more complicated partnering. Ms. Bauger's balances were much steadier and longer on Sunday afternoon, but her arms and working leg tended to drop slowly out of the proper position fairly early in the balance. Her multiple fouettés into chainé turns ended off-balance on Friday night, but were very polished on Sunday.

Mr. Vincenzo had a regal bearing and was a very attentive partner to Ms. Bauger. However on Friday, he lacked ballon in his jumps, landing quite heavily out of relatively low tour jetés. At the Brooklyn show his ballon was improved, and his landings were softer. Also, like many of the men in the company,he did not get his working leg close to or at ninety degrees in the turns a la seconde. Both dancers appear fairly young, and technique and polish will hopefully come with increased maturity and experience.

The pas de deux from Coppelia was followed by Ricky Pashkus' duet Casta Diva. Set to music Basada en la Opera Norma de Bellini, the ballet had a modern, angular feel which did not fit with the flowing operatic music. The tall, long-legged Lisandro Casco, in mottled, light-colored tights was partnered with Julieta Paul, who wore a simply cut dress. Unfortunately in both performances, due possibly to a lack of rehearsal time or to exhaustion, there was a continual,obvious lack of timing between the two dancers and between the dancers and the music. As a result, the performances appeared disjointed and the movements at odds with the music instead of flowing with or getting power from the music.

Le Corsaire, which followed, was expanded from the listed pas de deux to a pas de trois. A staple of many ballet galas, this bravura piece is probably not a wise repertoire selection for a touring group such as Ballet Argentino. Pulling off the technical feats that makes the Le Corsaire Pas de Trois come to life requires excellent technique and a great deal of energy and power. The two danseurs, Hernan Piquin as Conrad and Herbert Riascas as the slave, Ali, were technically solid, but it seemed that the technical skill required in Corsaire was at the very edge of their abilities, especially given the physical demands of the busy tour schedule.

At the Tilles Center, it appeared that the danseurs weren't comfortable enough with the stage to let loose with the bravura skills, and the stage was probably part of the reason they lacked ballon in their jumps and that Piquin's turns a la seconde were markedly slow. On Sunday, both men were clearly more comfortable, adding speed to their dancing and height and power to their jumps. Piquin finished his final solo with a beautiful series of bent-kneed pirouettes. Riascas has elegant long legs, and showed them off wonderfully in the delayed tour jetés, looking especially good with the added ballon on Sunday. He never looked entirely at ease with the double tour le en airs finishing to the knee, as he slid on several landings, and popped the final double tour in the Sunday performance. Though Riascas recovered quickly into the final pose, it illustrated the lack of polish.

Cecilia Figaredo, as Medora, was powerful and though she appeared to be leaning slightly in the supported turns, it never evolved into a problem. Her fouettés were fast, with doubles sprinkled in, but traveled a significant distance (intentionally?) on Sunday. Ms. Figaredo's dancing was also nicely polished, with attention paid to every detail, toe shoe to fingertip.

The fist act finished with Desde Lejos, Mauricio Wainrot's contemporary ballet. Danced by most of the company, the ballet's choreography reflects the contemporary and folkloric rhythms in Wim Merten's score. The women, in soft ballet slippers were attired by Carlos Gallardo in pale green dresses, the men in matching loose pants and tops. Without a doubt, Bocca stands out from the rest of the dancers, both in technique and pure ease and flow of dancing. His duet with the ebullient Stephanie Bauger brought out the best in her dancing and showed off his contemporary dance skills. On Friday, it appeared that his recently injured foot was bothering him, but Sunday afternoon there were no signs of any problems.

Also noteworthy was a short duet, but two younger (un-credited) dancers that had delightful energy, and displayed their solid partnering skills. The music was varied, some sections more classical, others apparently incorporating folk rhythms. The folk rhythms were matched with more modern dance motifs - flexed feet and bent arms. The dancers seem much more at home with this more contemporary choreography and music,blends balletic skill with more traditional Argentinian dances & rhythms.

It was during the second act, in Piazzolla Tango Vivo, a series of tangos to Astor Piazzola's distinctive music, however, that the dancers really came alive. On Friday night, especially, Ballet Argentino looked like an entirely different company in the second act. The level of energy and technical skill in the dancing was much higher, and the dancers seem to revel in the rhythms of the tango.

Divided into eight distinct tangos, the ballet, choreographed by Ana Maria Stekelman, began with the full company on stage. Jorge Ferrari's all-black costumes were both sensual and flattering - the women in black heels and knee length, shimmery tango-style dresses, the men in black pants and shirts. Aside from the occasional timing glitch, the dancers were fabulous - sensual, energetic and passionate. The second tango, a tango between Julio Bocca and a table, was one of the highlights. Bocca, in black pants, tank top and character shoes, had a raw passion and power which brought the dance to life. His dancing flowed like silk - every muscle engaged, so that one almost forgot he was dancing with an inanimate, angular partner. The dancing was carefully rehearsed, but danced with an abandon that only years of practice can make possible. This is Bocca at his best.

Bocca's solo was followed by a tango of two male couples. Male-male partnering was a frequent theme in the tangos, and it was interesting to see the variations possible on the traditional tango when both partners have equal power and strength. The men were able to lift each other into wonderful lifts, and still keep the flow of the tango going. The next section was a pas de trois of three bare-chested men engaged in a playful competition of skill and tango. The piece was choreographed around a bench, where the men sat, playfully pushed each - other off, leaped over, cartwheeled over and vaulted over. The three men in this piece displayed some gorgeous technical skills: jumps, spins and splits, a contrast from the technically more problematic first half. Clearly, the dancers are much more comfortable with this style of dance and this allows them the freedom to push their technical boundaries. The women too, were much more alive and free, with nary a wobbly on the hig! h heels in all of the tricky choreography.

The ballet continued with a duet between Bocca (and Perez?) that was quite sensual, but uncomfortable in the end when she stripped from her white skirt-suit to a black bra, gartered stockings and thong underwear. Compared to the unforced sensuality of the previous sections, her act of stripping seemed to force the sexuality. A clothed body is not necessarily less sensual than a naked body - mystery can be very sexy.

The real highlight, besides Bocca's solo, was the next solo performed by a young danseur, who unfortunately was not credited in the program. Dressed in the same black outfit and sporting a black bowler, he did a wonderful dance centered around the hat. It was a youthful, energetic tango, full of jazzy spins, cheeky hip swivels and grins and a great deal of athleticism.

After this delightful section, Bocca and Perez re-appeared, he in black bikini dancebelt and she in only a modified thong. The dance was dimly lit, and the female nudity not offensive, but again I don't think it added anything to the dance. Bocca's costume showed off his tautly muscled body, which he used to its full sensuality, but I think Ms. Perez would have looked much more sensual in a slinky black dress that would have emphasized the sinuosity of her movement.

The next section was done to a voice over, then song, both in Spanish. It might have been more effective to have the voices in English, or at least a translation available in the program, because the lyrics seemed to be connected to the choreography. Piazzolla Tango Viva ended with a wild solo by Bocca - here the word "loco" was frequently repeated in the lyrics, giving the impression that the dance was about craziness. Bocca brought out the full spirit of the music, with fast, jagged angled pirouettes and high bent legged leaps. It was an appropriately upbeat ending to the performance. (However, on Friday, I believe that the piece ended with a group tango - perhaps this ending was choreographed as an alternative ending when Mr. Bocca was injured, and was used to give him a rest on Friday night when his foot seemed to be bothering him).

Ballet Argentino is an exciting group of talented young dancers! Both performances had wonderful moments, and there were many dancers who I wanted to see more of and know more about. However, greater thought might have been put to into the choice of repertoire. The dancers, for the most part, were not as comfortable in the classical ballet excerpts. Rather than see them struggle with the technical skills in the classical ballet, it would have been nice to see them stick more closely to what they are comfortable with - perhaps experiment with combining tango and classical ballet in the form of a tango on pointe. The program also mentions that they have ballets choreographed on them by Mauro Bigonzetti and Kevin O'Day - these would have been very intriguing to see performed. I hope to see this company again in the future, with a different selection from their wide repertoire.


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Edited by Basheva & Marie.

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