Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
March 8, 2005
Reviewed by Kate Mattingly
Filling a 2,600-seat theater with charm and energy is no small challenge, but Orlando Ballet’s dancers, who bear their director’s trademark elegance and passion, did just that. Director Fernando Bujones chose an eclectic, accessible program, titled “Ballet to Broadway,” that delivered pizzazz. Bujones told the audience, “Tomorrow is my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate.”
The opener, Maria Julia Landa’s Celtic Fire, was ballet meets Riverdance. Wearing green tights (and green pointe shoes for the women), the dancers scissored their legs through parallel positions with their arms glued to their sides. Set to Irish music by Blair Douglas, Old Blind Dogs, and Tabache, the piece pleased the eyes, but the dancers seemed capable of more intricacy and subtlety.
In Spartacus, a melodramatic pas de deux choreographed by Bujones to Aram Khachaturian’s music, Israel Rodriguez and Giselle Menacho threw themselves into bravura lifts. Rodriguez, dressed in a leather cloth, and Menacho, in a short beige tunic, danced as if their love empowered one another. A tent and fire placed upstage added to the feeling of raw urgency.
Showing off his versatility, Rodriguez next performed a pas de deux with a folding chair as his partner in Terence O. Henderson’s That’s Life. With Sinatra’s crooning as accompaniment, he suavely glided in and out of chair-supported handstands. Bujones offered Clair de Lune, a delicate duet performed to Debussy’s famous melody (played beautifully by pianist Jacqueline Compton).
Rodriguez and Katia Garza choreographed and danced Vos y Yo, a tango duet set to Astor Piazzolla. If Argentinean tango captures subtlety and seduction, this version was American, more flash and acrobatics. In the classical vein, Bujones’ staging of Act III of Petipa’s Don Quixote was led by Eddy Tovar and Chiaki Yasukawa, who whipped through a series of single and double fouettés. A beautifully rehearsed corps of eight women backed them, and Caitlin Valentine’s knockout variation showcased her exquisite technique and infectious joy.
The closer, To the Rhythm, choreographed by Allison Hart Geary, was a feel-good romp through Carlos Santana songs. The costumes made the dancers look like they belonged on Star Search: black pants, with gold halter tops for the women and black tanks for the men. The dancers writhed and shook their hips energetically, but the choreography lacked the nuance or complexity that would have been beautiful to watch on such talented performers.
For more information: www.orlandoballet.org