Saturday, August 02, 2003

Point of Departure--2003 (Cain Park)

POINT OF DEPARTURE deserves standing “O”

Most local dance lovers know Karen Gabay as the long-time premiere female dancer with the Cleveland San Jose Ballet. Few realize, however, that she is also a very creative and talented choreographer. As her dance career comes to its climax she has segued into the role of dancer-choreographer. She is proficient in both roles.

She, along with her long-time talented partner, Raymond Rodriquez, followed the local dancers to California when financial problems, poor artistic choices, and a changing economy forced the CSJ Ballet to void its Cleveland ties. The duo loves the audiences in this area. They wanted to return and form their own company. Entitled Point of Departure the three year-old fledgling group is seeking financial means to create the kind of company that will again make Cleveland proud of its ballet tradition.

Point of Departure’s latest performance was staged at Cain Park. A near capacity audience was on it’s feet at the conclusion, applauding and screaming. The standing O was deserved as they had just seen a fine evening of dance.

This is not to say the performances were flawless. The ensemble, because of financial constraints, had only eight rehearsals to polish their dancing. Even making this more difficult was that Gabay had created “The Other Side of the Road.” a lengthy piece specifically for Rodriquez. It had its world premiere at this appearance. All of this led to some uncertainty at times. This did not, however, take away from the over-all wonder of the program.

Gabay’s “Nouveau Flamenco” danced to the music of Ottmar Liebert, found the cast in traditional flamenco costumes. Consisting of interesting couplings, often each pair doing different moves at the same time, the choreography showed creativity. The dancers executed stylized Spanish movements which nicely paralleled the moods of the guitar music. Gabay featured each of the dancers as soloists. The individual dancing and partnering were fine, but they were slightly off-sync when everyone was required to move as a unit.

“Meditation,” was a pas de deux displaying the fine partnering abilities of Rodriquez and Gabay. This was a selection using classical movements with modern overtones. The couple’s hand and arm use and their synchronization was superb. The dancers were accompanied by the excellent live piano fingering by Carolyn Warner and the fine bowmanship of violinist Lev Polyakin.

Sayaka Tai and Ivan Bielik were featured in the Pas de Deux from ‘DON QUIXOTE.’ After a mechanical start the duo’s confidence increased and shined brightly in their featured solo segments. Tai’s toe work and Bielik’s circle leaps were excellent.

Danced to a series of musical selections from Polyakin’s new jazz recording “The Other Side of the Road,” the ballet by the same name gave the youthful forty-something Rodriquez a chance to display his multi-talented abilities in classical ballet, modern dance, soft shoe, swing-dance, and theatrical movement. Gaby’s talent as a creative choreographer was showcased throughout. “Feast or Famine” which featured Rodriquez in a kick-line routine with four women was cheered loudly by the audience. He partnered effectively with Christine Schwaner in a pas de deux. Gabay and Rodriquez delighted as an exercise class duo in “Running out of Time.” The program’s highlight was the concluding segment. The entire company displayed fine style and message development in a reenactment of dancers trying out for a theatrical chorus line, portraying “Life is an Audition.”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The Pointe of Departure company deserves financial and audience support to keep giving the area their high level of dance performance. Their recent Cain Park presentation showed again the quality and talent of Gabay and Rodriquez, not only as dancers, but as co-artistic directors.