Stage: Wednesday, May 15, 2003
Joy of Bolshoi

With Bass Hall appearances, Ballet Arlington proves\r\n its superiority over \r\nclassic Russian ballet.


It’s no secret that Ballet Arlington boasts some of the best classical dancers in the area. With classy émigrés from the Eastern Bloc, the company has turned into a Russian-styled powerhouse over the past five years. Unlike Texas Ballet Theater (formerly known as Fort Worth Dallas Ballet), which often spends money on shows that don’t rise above the ordinary, Ballet Arlington invests in dancers and always seems to shine. The company’s choice of repertory is restricted, but the performance impact is great.

A case in point was the company’s recent outing in Bass Performance Hall to show off the husband and wife team of Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre, Ballet Arlington’s latest acquisitions. (A European panel named Lacarra best dancer of 2002, and she was decorated by Prince Albert of Monaco earlier this year.) The couple has been seen here in the past dancing an adagio duo, but they have never been seen integrated into the company. (Arlington saw the pair in a stunning performance of Balanchine’s Bugaku, which we can only hope will be repeated sometime in Fort Worth.)

The couple’s vehicle this time was Paul Mejia’s Romeo and Juliet, an imaginative setting of the Tchaikovsky fantasy overture of the same name. A distillation of the Shakespeare classic, Mejia’s version offered a pared-down interpretation of the story of the lovers and Tybalt, presenting the essence of the piece in a series of flashbacks beginning with the tomb scene. Lacarra was a captivating Juliet — vulnerable, confused, and touching as events around her spiraled out of control, culminating in her suicide. Pierre seemed restrained in Romeo’s exuberant moments, but the love duet found him ardent and secure. The only noticeable loose end was poor Tybalt, excellently danced by Alexander Vetrov, who was abandoned after his duel with Romeo to wriggle off stage as best he could.

While three principals are featured, a corps of 24, clad in black body stockings to the wrist and over the feet, is called for in this ballet. In a choreographic master stroke, Mejia arranges these shadowy dancers in various groups in the murky lighting to suggest props and scenery. Six dancers, three to a side, bend toward one another and become an arched window. Others become doorways or a bench for Juliet to perch on. Even Juliet’s byre is made up of carefully stacked bodies. Adding a theatrical flourish of his own, Mejia reunites the lovers after death in a celestial wedding, complete with an enormous silk train floating behind as the curtain comes down. Shakespeare might have second thoughts, but it works as dance.

The evening opened with a shaky performance of Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante, the choreographer’s 1956 setting of the Tchaikovsky Third Piano Concerto, superbly played by David Dubiel in the pit. An abstract classical ballet without a blade of grass to hide behind, the piece is new to the company, and the dancing seemed tentative, even cautious. The ballerinas also made an unwelcome racket with their toe shoes — something TBT dancers do a lot but that I don’t recall coming across with Ballet Arlington. The performance looked like a dress rehearsal, and you sensed that another go-round would have improved the performance tenfold. Mindaugas Bauzys held his own, however, in the male solos, including the wonderful running leap that calls for the dancer to flip around in midair and sail backward off the stage.

A suite from Don Quixote, staged by Vetrov to include the “Bolero” and “Fandango” in addition to the familiar Grand Pas de Deux, brought the program to a rousing close. The classic Russian repertory is the company’s meat and potatoes — and no one dances it better in the flamboyant Bolshoi style than Marina Goshko. Her technique is absolute. She spins and leaps with ease and tosses off 32 fouettes with double and triple turns without a bobble. But it’s the joy with which she performs, the stylish attitude, the radiant smile that invites you to share in the beauty of the dance that’s so special. She has found a young partner, Andre Prikhodko, who works well with her and dazzles with his own virtuosity. He’s made amazing strides in the past couple of years and is a force to be reckoned with in the company.

Ron Spigelman conducted the Texas Chamber Orchestra in the pit, and, aside from the French horns coming unglued a few times, things were kept neatly under control by the conductor. This is his last season here, and his thoughtful musicmaking will be missed.

If you missed the program, the company returns to Fort Worth June 20, with Lacarra and Pierre dancing one of their adagio specialties, Gerard Bohbot’s ethereal setting of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which Bohbot created for the couple.

With Vetrov and Mejia reigning as co-artistic directors, the company has the best of two worlds: Vetrov staging and appearing in classic Russian ballets, and Mejia staging his own work and Balanchine’s. The next program will feature the oddly orchestrated Carmen Suite, with its battery of marimbas, xylophones, and other exotica, in addition to Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisies. The Carmen ballet was created for Mia Plisetskaya 40 years ago when she was prima donna asoluta of the Bolshoi Ballet. She still holds performance rights and guards them closely. Vetrov, Bauzys, and guest Bolshoi principal Marianna Ryzhkina, who will dance the title role, all worked in Moscow to learn the piece and to receive Plisetskaya’s blessing. This should be a rare treat.

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