Tulsa Ballet’s Dancers Carry the Day

August 12, 2009

What made Tulsa Ballet’s debut in NYC wonderful was the dancers. In three very different works, they shone brightly with clean technique and individual personalities. They had joy and rigor, but best of all, a sense of freedom onstage.

The company has a gem in its leading ballerina, 22-year-old Karina Gonzalez, from Venezuela. She’s the kind of dancer who makes you smile just to watch her. Barely containing her joy of movement in the ridiculously dressed Elite Syncopations
by Macmillan, she moved through her partnering as though she relished each movement—and the audience. Just a hint of flirtation. Showing her range, she was earthy in Nacho Duato’s lush, ritualistic Por Vos Muero, and romantic in a pas de deux in This Is Your Life by Young Soon Hue.  A total pleasure in each piece.

Mugen Kazama is about the funniest ballet dancer I’ve seen in years. Small and quick, with a shock of black hair, he delved into the comedic sections with élan, playing the short guy partnering the tall girl in Elite Syncopations.
He’s an exciting, darting presence who also happens to be fun and funny to watch. Ashley Blade-Martín combined a sweet ingénue demeanor with a more mature quality in her duet with Ma Cong in Elite.

This Is Your Life
by Young Soon Hue, though not a very sophisticated piece in its concept of an old TV show, gave the dancers an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Ma Cong, slashing the air with his limbs, whipped up a fine fury as a reluctant businessman. Ricardo Graziano managed to imbue the stereotypically gay hairdresser with a manic, piquant wit. Kazama led a tango with a bravura mock confidence. Other dancers who caught my eye include the lanky Wang Yi and the wayward Beatrice Sebelin.

I’ll be writing a review later, but I just wanted to get this out now. So many companies coming from afar don’t impress New York audiences. But Tulsa Ballet did. Both the individual dancers and the spirit of the whole company left vivid memories. They are still at the Joyce this weekend.