Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Point of Departure --6/1/2004

POINTE OF DEPARTURE makes a positive point!

The Cleveland area has many fine dance companies such as Groundworks and Verb. What is missing, since the departure of Cleveland/San Jose Ballet is a fine ballet company. But, some might respond, there are the Ohio Ballet and Ohio Dance Theatre. Unfortunately, Ohio Ballet has proven to be inconsistent and there does not appear to be much hope that in the near future there will be much change in that status. Ohio Dance Theatre, Denise Gula’s Oberlin based group, does a nice job for a small company with limited resources, but, it doesn’t produce world class productions.

Fortunately for the area, each summer former CSJB wunderkinds Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez return to the area to give a limited number of performances by their Point of Departure company. This year the local season is limited to three outings, the just completed two performances at the Cleveland Play House and an August 5 night at Cain Park’s outdoor theatre.

As it again proved in its Play House programs, it’s really a shame the company can’t be in residence here all year long. The program was excellent!

Pointe of Departure has four things going for it. First and foremost, is the wonderfully creative choreography and fine-tuned directing of Karen Gabay. Second is the dancing of Rodriguez. Third is the dancing of Gabay. And fourth is the female corps de ballet.

Gabay’s choreography, much like the person, is full of energy, a sense of delight and an eye on precision. Her dancers are almost always in sync. The movements fit the musical tones and textures. Her story ideas are clear. Her dancers tend to know what to do and how to achieve the end result.

Though Rodriguez is getting a little long-in-the-tooth by dancer’s criteria, and his once razor thin body has thickened up a bit, he hasn’t lost a bit of his talent. He out-danced every male on the stage in the recent performances, some of whom were half his age. His secret is not only his dancing, but his attitude and understanding that emotions must be felt, not acted. It is a lesson that someone like Maximo Califano could well learn. Califano is tall, dark and handsome. He danced the lead in several numbers. He seems to have good dancing instincts, but his execution is sloppy, he feigns feelings, and lacks body control. His leaps often end with him off-balance. His hands flop around never completing a movement with finality. His eyes never show intensity or glee, as is fitting certain segments of dance. He feigns feelings rather than feeling them.

Gabay still moves like a feather and shows total glee in being before an audience.

The female corps are all fine. It’s hard to pick out one to highlight as they all performed well. Special nods go to Christine Schwaner for her performance in “Abrazo” and “A Vision in White,” and Catharine Grow in “Blues.”

On the other hand, the males are inconsistent. Jekyns Pelaez does an excellent job in his leaps, but is inconsistent in his timing. Demetrius King is a strong dancer and conveys the correct attitudes, but is also inconsistent in his dance interpretations. Ramon Moreno dances well in “Trabada,” he failed to convey to appropriate sensuality need.

“Gare Du Midi” centers on riders waiting for a train in a station. Leonard Bernstein’s music, “Divertimento for Orchestra” contains a melange of musical sounds including the waltz, samba, turkey trot, blues and march. The choreography perfectly matched the musical sounds. Highlight segments included “Sphinxes,” “Mazurka,” and “Turkey Trot.”

“Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, Act II featured Alexsandra Meijer as Odette, the Swan Queen and Maximo Califano as the Prince. Meijer dances well, but she failed to compel the audience to watch her. Much of the problem centered on her stoic attitude which lacked the necessary vulnerability and enchantment of the character.

“2-2 Tango” was again Gabay at her choreographic best. She took the audience through ten different emotional levels, all based on tango music. Highlight segments included “Sentado” which again proved that as dancers and partners Gabay and Rodriguez still have it! Their “Mordida” was another highlight segment. Gabay, along with Patricia Perez and Christine Schwaner performed excellent toe-work in “Cordia.”

The delightful jazz induced “The Other Side of the Road” completed the evening. Again Rodriguez sparkled. Every segment of the Gabay choreographed piece was unique and well executed.

The final curtain was greeted by a deserved standing ovation by the near capacity audience. Interestingly, there were no sets, the music was recorded and the costumes minimal but fine. As Pointe of Departure proved, it doesn’t take gimmicks to produce wonderful dance.

It would be wonderful if Pointe Of Departure could become a year long community fixture. With the right benefactor or series of benefactors that could become a reality.

Some person or persons or group needs to step forward and fund this fledgling organization. No one better deserves this support than Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez. If you have a check to write, big or small, or a suggestion of who might be angel to give the area its ballet company, contact Point of Departure at 216-881-0353 or write Gabrod, Inc. at P.O. Box 719, Lakewood, OH 44107 or go on-line to www.pointeofdeparture,com.