Can Too Much Smiling Ruin a Ballet?

March 18, 2010






A certain critic has complained of too much smiling in Corella Ballet, and it’s a valid point. But the U.S. debut of Corella Ballet was a joyous occasion. Yes, there were flaws, and the smiling habit was one of them. Another possible flaw, the obvious display of virtuosity, could make a person grouchy, or it could make a person happy that these dancers can pull it off.


There is definitely something too automatic about a dancer with a pasted on smile. But when I see this, it just makes me think she or he hasn’t received good direction. It doesn’t make me dump on the whole ballet, or the whole company.


The premiere by Angel Corella himself, String Sextet, is clearly intended as an opener to introduce his dancers to its public. As a bonus, it was a remarkable first piece of choreography. Some of the lifts were inventive, and the line of men, with one man waiting, kind of lost, in the center while the woman wove through, was poignant.


As I said in my last blog (click here) the duet between Angel and his sister Carmen was terrific. The whole audience (well, almost the whole audience) responded emotionally because of the outpouring of sibling love well channeled into a structure made for them by María Pagés. I can’t remember the last time I was part of a standing ovation mid-concert.


The two Soviet ballets, well, they were never great ballets anyway. Sure, with Plisetskaya blasting through Walpurgisnacht, back in the 1950s and 60s, it was a more rip-roaring ballet. But I would have to agree that these two ballets (Sunny Duet was the other one) were not great choices.


Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV actually looked better to me than it did on The Royal Ballet a few months ago at the Kennedy Center. That’s partly because City Center is more intimate and every movement is more vivid, and partly cuz Wheeldon’s ballets get better each time you see them. How welcome it was to see a large, thought-provoking Wheeldon piece! At the end of the evening, one realized what a huge range this new company has. Bravo!



Pictured: Wheeldon’s
DGV, photo by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy Corella Ballet