Gelabert-Azzopardi companyia de dansa

October 13, 2004

Gelabert-Azzopardi companyia de dansa
Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA)

October 13–16, 2004

Reviewed by Karen Dacko


Spanish dancer and choreographer Cesc Gelabert’s talent, elegance, and presence enrapt his audiences. In his Preludis, the co-director of Barcelona-based Gelabert-Azzopardi companyia de dansa gave an honest, convincing performance that never faltered.

CAPA’s auditorium offered an intimate venue for this presentation by the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, an initiative of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust that showcases U.S. premieres of dance and theater works. The 45-minute solo was staged in an arresting visual environment of a dozen freestanding sculptures (most resembling quirky, unlit streetlights with red, teardrop-shaped globes) arranged to suggest a clock’s face.

Preludes of Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Mompou, and Santos, played by an onstage pianist, provided a parallel performance that complemented but did not influence the contemporary ballet. The work unfolded clockwise as a series of short variations, each delineated by unique thematic gestures.

Dressed in dark trousers and a knit shirt with an open collar, the mature artist quietly entered in stocking feet from stage left. With his trim form bathed in green light, he struck a slightly forward-leaning, profile posture with both arms extended behind him. At “six o’clock” Gelabert faced the audience, fingers in his mouth, his elbows jutting outwards at his sides. With eyes closed, he explored his senses, drawing one hand beneath his nose as if inhaling a fragrant scent and later slathering his person with washing movements. At “midnight,” he ceremoniously affixed a three-tiered black hat to his bald pate. Eyes open, he curled his fingers into arthritic contractions and lunged forward in a grotesquely amusing crouch. In another variation, he collapsed, rested, or slept on a bean-shaped set piece.

Many gestures paired skewed adaptations of classical port de bras with subtle, rudimentary sautés and rond de jambe, sequential demi-plié/relevé, and pump turns. A deceptively simple but effective demi-pointe combination displayed his solid balance. Showers of perspiration released by his most animated movements revealed the intensity of his efforts.

The closing moments recapped key phrases twice, leaving an indelible impression of the artist’s skillfully wrought movements before he faded into upstage darkness.

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