Monday, August 12, 2002

Ballet gala performers electrifying, passionate

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        Saturday's Gala of International Ballet Stars at the Aronoff was a night to remember.

        The evening of short works assembled by ballet tech ohio's Claudia Rudolf Barrett, Alexei Kremnev, Anna Reznik and Marvel Gentry Davis brought together: Charles Askegard, Jennie Somogyi and Kathleen Tracey from the New York City Ballet; Amanda McKerrow, Paloma Herrera and Gennadi Saveliev from the American Ballet Theatre in New York; Christina Johnson, Donald Williams and Desmond Richardson from Complexions of New York; Anastasya Meskova from the Bolshoi Ballet; Greta Hodgkinson and Geon van der Wyst from the National Ballet of Canada; Ms. Reznik and Mr. Kremnev, who are guest artists, Northern Ballet Theatre, England.

        If you like getting lost in a full-length work, then a gala is not for you. It is short works thrown at you at a rapid-fire pace. Classical pas de deux share the stage with edgy modern works. There's no identifiable theme except the excellence of the dancers.

        All left their hearts on the stage, and the audience responded with a standing ovation and applause that wouldn't stop. When the lights came up, people were reluctant to leave. There wasn't a shoddy performance, and with thirteen works to choose from there was something for everyone.

        It wasn't perfect — there were a few missteps and the taped music, particularly for George Balanchine's “Apollo,” was distorted at times. But perfection wasn't necessary; the event was too exciting for it to matter.

        Desmond Richardson is often described as the finest African-American dancer in the world. In incredible form, his “Solo,” choreographed by Dwight Rhoden to the music of Prince, certainly distinguishes him as a solo artist. His control and total commitment to the movement is absolute.

        Local favorites Ms. Reznik and Mr. Kremnev made their strongest statement with Val Caniparoli's fantastic “Fade to Black” to the music of Nina Simone. There were major fireworks between the two in this sassy, sultry, rough-love duet.

        Paloma Herrera was a delicate slave girl to Gennadi Saveliev's bounding pirate in Le Corsaire pas de deux. Her single and double fouettes (wonderful, continuous turns) were bested by his wild, explosive jumps that brought gasps from the audience. It's a dance meant to thrill, and that it did.

        Other thrilling moments: Ms. Meskova's kicks as high as her head in “Esmerelda”; Ms. Anderson and Mr. Walsh, passionately involved in Ben Stevenson's dreamy “End of Time”; Ms. Johnson and Mr. Williams, electrifying in Mr. Rhoden's “Ave Maria”; Ms. Hodgkinson and Mr. van der Wyst's right-on realization of William Forsythe's “In the Middle Somewhat Elevated.”

        The next gala is August 9, 2003. Mark your calendars now.


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