Just the Way She Held His Hand
I keep thinking about Nino Gogua in Duo Concertant. It was the only Balanchine on State Ballet of Georgia’s program at Jacob’s Pillow last week. This is a difficult piece to perform cuz the two dancers have to hang out around the piano and just listen to the musicians, without dancing—without even warming up. And then when you start dancing, you just do a simple tendu side, in parallel, a whole bunch of times before the arms do anything. I guess it’s just to show the syncopation of the Stravinsky music, but it’s hard to make something of it. Frankly, the only dancer I’ve loved in that part was PNB’s Louise Nadeau; she used her shoulders just a tiny bit, giving it a sense of style and fun.
Nino Gogua is nothing like Louise Nadeau (actually she reminds me of NYCB’s Kyra Nichols in her lightness and compassion—see my review of her in SBG’s Bournonville reconstruction), and was quite solemn during the first section. But her legwork is really clean and piquant, and there’s a depth to her even when she’s not doing much. After she and her partner, the Royal Danish Ballet’s Sebastian Kloborg (son of Frank Andersen and Eva Kloborg), danced together, she takes his hand. She only takes his hand—but with all the focus and love you would give to someone you care a whole lot about. She feels his palm with her hand and looks carefully at their linked hands. I don’t remember if she looks at his face. But what happens with their hands is so fabulous, and seeing it at the intimate Ted Shawn Theater instead of a huge theater, pulls you in right away. It foreshadows that poignant passage at the end in the pinlight, where she blows a kiss to him. And she does this in the most sensual way. She takes her time kissing her own hand in the light and sending it to him. It’s like she is giving both her spirit and her body to him. Then he kisses her hand and slides down her to genuflection. So when the very last thing you see is Kloborg, kneeling with open arms, and raising his face up in surrender to her, it completes the picture.
It made me think of how Duo Concertant has something in common with the far more beloved Serenade. They are both fairly abstract, “pure dance” ballets until the last lap. And then, seemingly out of nowhere comes this elegiac ending that makes tears spring to your eyes. And only certain dancers can carry that off and make a continuity out of it. Nino Gogua is one of them.
Nino Gogua of The State Ballet of Georgia and Sebastian Kloborg of the Royal Danish Ballet in
Duo Concertant. Photo by Kristi Pitsch, courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.