Urban Ballet Theater

November 3, 2005

Robert Brown and Chloe Reynolds in
Photo by Herbert Delancey, courtesy Urban Ballet Theater

Urban Ballet Theater
National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM

November 3–5, 2005

Reviewed by Janet Eigner


Daniel Catanach’s electric company, Urban Ballet Theater, integrates ballet, black and Hispanic urban gesture, and social and modern dance. A New Mexico native, Catanach shone a mirror on the region’s Hispanic and Native American cultures, including poetry, in his Of Dust and Bones. A painter, musicians, and puppeteers from the region collaborated in La Llorona.

Levi Romero spoke his poems onstage, creating the foundation for Of Dust and Bones. The dynamic Andres Gonzales danced three of the five suites as romantic duets with Angela Harris, Jessica Perez, and Anna Courter, and one with Robert Brown as his buddy. His solo matched the poet’s quiet reminiscences. Gonzales’ sensual and skillful partnering of each woman revealed them as unattainable partners, as each offered a different kind of rejection.

Each suite described a scene from Romero’s teens, alternating explosive hip hop leaps, back-arched leaping circles, and pas de deux that combined arabesques with the hunched speed and force of street moves. Dancers mirrored the poet’s bittersweet mood as he returned to Taos plaza. Gonzales earned his sulking swagger in the “Hearts and Arrows” pas de deux with Harris, encircling her waist as she cambréd back and plucked up a lace mantilla before leaving him in the lurch. The choreography’s start-and-stop strategy—explosive phrases were followed by a pedestrian attitude of relaxation—fit the desultory mood. Romero’s unassuming voice played like a smooth stream under the dancers’ powerful lunges, partnering, and quick partings.

Chloe Reynolds, the most classically trained of the company dancers, stood out in every work, especially in Tangoed, which combined modern and balletic moves. Slung by Robert Brown onto his shoulder, she thrust up her limbs in a hiccoughing, unique phrase. Musical intensity, though, held the work together; the dancing lacked fluidity.

The well-known Southwestern tale La Llorona told of an abandoned mother who drowns her children and then haunts the river. Perez danced the repetitive choreography with delicacy.

Nicholas Wright III excelled in Mambo as a rural Chicano attempting to conform to the dances of five diverse urban cliques—cultures reflecting the Americas and the Caribbean. His taut, powerful moves evolved to his own tongue-popping, loin-grooving style.

Although Catanach may have intended the pauses in his choreography to mimic the body language of urban life, he needs to fashion more attentive transitions to sustain tension between the work’s engrossing dance phrases. See www.urbanballettheater.org.