Monday, September 06, 2010

Joffrrey Ballet/Cleveland Orchestra 9/10

Orchestra shines, but disappointing Joffrey Ballet at Blossom

Last year my review of the Joffrey Ballet/Cleveland Orchestra program read: “Combine the world-class Joffrey Ballet, with the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra, and place them in the lush Blossom Center on a crisp August evening. The results? A very special experience.” Not so this year. The dancers seemed distracted, lacking in precision and vitality, and, in spite of several highlight moments, generally were disappointing. The orchestra, on the other hand, was marvelous.

How can dancers, when accompanied by the finely tuned sounds of the world famous Cleveland Orchestra, be so flat and lax?

A man who I talked to at intermission said, “I don't know anything about ballet but when the dancers are in lines, aren't the lines supposed to be straight; and, in group movements, aren't the arms supposed to be moving together; and, aren't the dancers supposed to jump and land in tandem?” Yes, he was right on all counts. This is a world-class company. What we saw, at least on opening night, was not world-class dancing.

The evening opened with 'REFLECTIONS,' danced to the “Variations on a Rococo Theme' by Piotr Tchaikovsky, featuring the thrilling sounds of Cleveland Orchestra cellist Mark Kosower. It is neoclassical in the Arpino style, consisting of high lifts, a fast pace and traditional balletic beauty. Though the dancers seemed uninspired, with weak synchronization of corps movements, the piece was adequately interpreted.

'AGE OF INNOCENCE,' performed to the music of Philip Glass and Thomas Newman, which was more tonal than most of Glass's works, told a story of societal repression. Again, the corps timing was off with crooked lines and out of sync movements, especially by the male dancers. Compelling Christine Rocas and athletic Mauro Villanueva were excellent in the “First Dialogue” segment, while Victoria Jainai and Fabrice Calmels were convincing and dynamic in “Obey Thee.”

'TARANETLLA,' a sprightly southern Italian folk dance characterized by a fast upbeat tempo, was adequately, but not spectacularly danced by Yumelia Garcia and Derrick Agnoletti. There are so many occasions for the dancers, especially the male dancer to shine, but there was little enthusiasm or showcased talent expressed by Agnoletti.

The highlight number of the evening was the “PAS DE DEUX FROM LE CORSIARE.' Set to music by Adolphe Adam, with new music by Riccardo Drigo, the number is loosely based on Lord Byron's poem, “Corsair.” It featured lovely music, well played by the Cleveland Orchestra, and was nicely danced by Victoria Jaiani and Miguel Angel Blanco, who displayed good partnering, with fine toe work and excellent circle jumps. Finally, the audience saw what the entire evening should have been!

'PRETTY BALLET' was set to “Symphony No. 2” by Bohuslav Martinu. The highlight was Movement II in which Valerie Robin and Fabrice Calmels flowed as one to create a cohesive piece. Again, when the full cast was present in Movement IV, the sync was off.

The tell-tale clue to the audience's reaction was that the usual “mandatory” Cleveland standing ovation was missing at the end of the performance and many left well before the evening was concluded.

Capsule judgement: Joffrey Ballet's latest trip to Blossom paled by comparison to last year's performance and other showings that I have seen. It was almost like the powers that be sent in a secondary set of dancers who were seemingly neither prepped for, nor enthused about, this appearance. We deserved more from this world-class company!