Chapman Music Hall, Tulsa Performing Arts Center
November 9?11, 2001
Reviewed by Lili Cockerille Livingston
A surgeon’s scalpel could not have cut through the thick emotional tension rising from the audience during Tulsa Ballet’s riveting performance of Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement. The 1990 work, set to a Toto Bissainthe score inspired by Haitian slaves and their vodoun culture, evoked haunting images of the universal struggle against oppression, executed with stunning technical and dramatic authority by company members Alexandra Bergman, Alfonso Martin, and Daniela Buson.
With Duato’s Na Floresta, Jardi Tancat, and Coming Together all in the company’s repertoire, the dancers were prepared for the intense knee work throughout Rassemblement. Supervised by Duato’s principal assistant, Kevin Irving, with additional coaching from Nathalie Buisson (a former member of Duato’s Compañia Nacional de Danza), the dancers rose above the physical challenges of the work and grasped the sense of solidarity inherent in Duato’s message; at times, they seemed to breathe as one.
When the curtain lowered on their still writhing bodies, which were recoiling from one of many unsuccessful attempts to break through the impenetrable enemy line, the audience sat motionless and silent until the curtain rose again. Thundering applause and approving shouts followed.
As opposed to the stark realism of Duato’s work, Trey McIntyre’s Like A Samba offered a delightful celebration of the sheer beauty of dance. Set to an olio of Astrid Gilberto’s Brazilian popular music and songs, the work elevated ballroom dancing into the realm of classical ballet. Beginning with Ma Cong’s virtuoso solo, interspersed with syncopated hip swirls, the piece proceeded at dizzying speed through various combinations of dancers executing difficult choreography with absolute ease.
Alexandra Bergman and Luz San Miguel acquitted themselves superbly with strong pointe work, flawless line, and uncommonly fluid transitions. Likewise, Cong, Wilson Lema, and Ryan Martin exhibited effortless technical prowess coupled with precise and gracious partnering skills. McIntyre’s ingenious use of the classical ballet vocabulary and his ability to inspire such exuberance from his dancers bodes well for his future.
Tulsa Ballet Artistic Director Marcello Angelini’s decision to end the emotional roller coaster with Lila York’s exhilarating Celts was a stroke of programming genius. The spirited tribute to Irish folk dance enhanced by ballet technique, minus the traditional port de bras, was choreographed to the score from The Secret of Roan Inish. It put the audience in a festive mood. The performance was marked by sporadic outbursts of applause and a few feet tapping along with the infectious beat of the music. The energy level was also tremendously high during ensemble sections.
Ryan Martin took center stage with unparalleled brilliance. His deft footwork, soaring jumps, perfectly executed multiple turns, and musicality were breathtaking. His radiant personality lit up the stage throughout the work and seemed to ignite a gleeful quality in the dancers around him. He was especially powerful in the men’s fight scene, during which he and Alphonso Martin paired off. Both demonstrated considerable technical virtuosity and sparked the other to push beyond personal limitations. The other dancers followed suit, providing a sensational example of the power of male dancers.
Buson and Lema also added to the work’s more lyrical section, performing a duet based on ballet technique judiciously peppered with purely Irish upper body carriage and a smattering of flexed-foot movement. Martin brought the curtain down with a dazzling display of pure, pyrotechnical feats ending on his knees, back to the audience, with a triumphant right arm held high above his head.