Ballet du Capitol de Toulouse

February 19, 1998

Magali Guerry in Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse’s production of Balanchine’s “Rubies.”
Photo by Patrice Nin

Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse

Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico,
Albuquerque, New Mexico

February 19-20, 1998

Reviewed by Marilyn Hunt

Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse, under the direction of Nanette Glushak, an American veteran of both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, brought mostly American works on its six-week tour of the United States. Ballets by George Balanchine and Agnes de Mille were well staged but danced with a European accent, with varying results, by this troupe from the southwest of France.

The emphasis seemed to be on acting rather than expressive movement in Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son, staged by Richard Tanner. Patrice Lasserre was an impassioned Son and leaped well. His movements lacked emblematic force, however, because they didn’t come from his center and were not fully extended and finished. Simpler acting would have made the Son’s early naïveté more convincing, his later suffering less melodramatic, to American eyes. Regal Paola Pagano was well cast physically as the Siren–she had the right snakelike coldness–but she lacked the psychic authority through movement that would have made her domination of the Son emotionally immediate. The Companions added drunken, over-the-top details, such as chaîné turns with jugs perched on their heads, but their pliés were too shallow to give impact to the back-to-back, insectlike skittering.

The performance of Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony was notable for its alert, good-looking corps of men and women, who were well rehearsed and on top of the music. The soloist, Christelle Combescot, with her excellent footwork, was amusing as a perky, flirtatious, Paris-born Scottish lass. Less amusing was Evelyne Spagnol, who had a distinctly un-sylphlike (and un-Balanchinean) labored quality that included double preparations for pirouettes. Leon Pronk danced with romantic flair but missed out on his role’s virtuosity.

An audience in the American West watching Europeans dance de Mille’s 1942 Rodeo would not be likely to mistake most of the dancers for local cowboys, although one dancer’s genuine-sounding “Yeee-hah!” during the square dance drew appreciative chuckles. (But a program note about “the delicacy and naïveté of the western woman,” presumably referring to the frilly friends of the Rancher’s Daughter, was off-base, as they are clearly supposed to be Easterners on a visit, getting their Western kicks.) But here’s the evening’s happy ending: The Cowgirl, Silvia Pairotti, and the Champion Roper, Luca Tozi, were completely beguiling. Pairotti was genuinely funny without hamming–spunky and touching, collapsing like a newborn colt. Tozi, with verve and insouciant charm, did a credible and humorous tap dance. They made Rodeo a genuine “Courting at Burnt Branch” (as de Mille’s subtitle goes), indeed.

Ballet du Capitole also presented a second, all-Balanchine program consisting of “Rubies,” Prodigal Son, and Raymonda Variations.