City Ballet of San Diego

May 6, 2005

Photo by Matt Alioto, courtesy City Ballet of San Diego

City Ballet of San Diego
Spreckels Theatre, San Diego, CA

May 6–8, 2005

Reviewed by Janice Steinberg


City Ballet of San Diego staged its first all-Balanchine program last year, with three works already in the company’s repertory and a premiere of Agon. The latest Balanchine Celebration offered four premieres from this 12-year-old company whose talent nearly measures up to its ambition.

Tight, dynamic corps work reflected the meticulousness of City founders Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich, both veterans of the Boston and Stuttgart Ballets. The corps got off to a slightly mushy start with the syncopation and interweavings of Concerto Barocco (1941), but they cohered by the second movement and ended with a sharp, thrilling Allegro. They formed a precision drill team in excerpts from Stars and Stripes (1958) and had fun with the tongue-in-cheek Donizetti Variations (1960). (Concerto Barocco was set on the company by Leslie Peck and the other dances by Elyse Borne.)

Among the leads, Alexey Kulpin ignited the stage with Rockette-worthy kicks and leaps exciting for their width as well as height in Tarantella (1964) and Donizetti Variations. Kulpin, who trained in St. Petersburg and came to City from Israel Ballet, triumphed in the battle with Balanchine’s take-no-prisoners choreography, a task that sometimes daunted the less experienced leads. Mira Cook, while spirited and technically clean, lacked Kulpin’s mastery in Tarantella, and Janica Smith looked precise but brittle as the First Violin in Concerto Barocco. Smith’s delicacy and reserve shone, however, in Donizetti Variations, where she excelled in a flirty section with three suitors. And Cook showed a lovely, jazzy ease as Concerto Barocco’s Second Violin, combining intensity and freedom in shifts from quick attack to sustained, breath-filled moves. Also notable: Heidi Zolker and Timothy Coleman, fresh and lively in the Stars and Stripes pas de deux, and Richard Comstock’s powerful serial lifts of Smith in Concerto Barocco.

These are young dancers (Smith is just 18), and most did double-duty as corps members in this company whose dreams outstrip its small budget. So there’s room for growth and opportunity if the Wistriches continue to seek out such challenging material for their promising company.

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