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Rare Jewel Shines – New Jersey Ballet's "Esmeralda"

by Judith Buckingham
November 17, 2007
Mayo Center for the Performing Arts
Community Theatre at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts
100 South Street
Morristown, NJ 07960
(973) 539-8008

Featured Dance Company:

New Jersey Ballet
New Jersey Ballet (office)
15 Microlab Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
973.597-9600
www.njballet.org

New Jersey Ballet Website - www.njballet.org

Editor's Note: Robert Johnson said ExploreDance.com absolutely had to have a review of Esmeralda. Fortunately, the talented Judith Buckingham was available to review it.
It is a special occasion when the New Jersey Ballet decides to bring its landmark Esmeralda out for show, and audiences were given another opportunity to see this romantic ballet in all its theatrical glory.

Artistic director, Carolyn Clark, and guest Russian ballet master, Vitali Akhoundov, first unveiled the groundbreaking full-length Esmeralda to American audiences in 2004. This rare and ambitious production was revived for one night at the Community Theatre at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts, in Morristown, N.J. on November 17.

Based on the epic Victor Hugo novel, Notre-Dame de Paris (aka The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Esmeralda focuses on the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda, who is pursued by the evil Archdeacon Frollo, betrayed by her love, Captain Phoebus, and adored by the hunchback, Quasimodo. Originally staged by Jules-Joseph Perrot, with music by Cesare Pugni, it premiered at her Majesty's Theatre, in London, in 1844 and starred some of the greatest dancers of the day, including Carlotta Grisi as Esmeralda. The ballet evolved through the years with elements added by Marius Petipa, Agrippina Vaganova, and Valdimir Bourmiester.

Ahkoundov has based this production on the 1950 Russian staging by Bourmeister. Keeping the clear dramatic structure of the original, Esmeralda is divided into three acts, each with its own distinct style of dancing: character dancing in Act I, classical in Act II, and concluding with high drama in Act III.

Act I began in spectacular fashion with brilliant and boisterous character dancing. Carnival dancers Sergio Amarante, Vitaly Verterich and Andrei Kisselev danced with great precision and attack. Verterich's and Kisselev's jumps were breath-taking, garnering applause from the audience, while the gypsy dancers gleamed. Konstantin Dournev starred as Quasimodo, whose role is more mime than dancer, but an important one, nonetheless, replacing the typical virtuosic romantic dancing male hero.

Bolshoi-trained Julia Vorobyeva carried the title role of the gypsy dancer who is framed for a crime she did not commit. From the moment she skipped onto the stage, Vorobyeva, portrayed the spirited gypsy, Esmeralda, full of life and child-like innocence. Her pliant back and gorgeous arms brought a special loveliness to the role. Although she suffered a few bobbles during the performance, her third-act adagio was beautiful to watch.

All credit, too, to her partner, Andrei Jouravlev, as Captain Phoebus, who remained a strong, steady and dependable partner throughout the performance. His sure and impressive lifts gave confidence to Vorobyeva's few moments of unsteadiness. Jouravlev, who brings great nobility to every role he performs, was cast perfectly as Captain Phoebus.

The highlight of the evening came in the second act when the style changed from gypsy character to high-style classical, a divertissement to entertain Phoebus and Fleur de Lys before their wedding day. Both technically spot on and powerful, Christina Theryoung-Neira significantly raised the level of the production in the second act as Fleur de Lys. Outstanding in her style and strength, Theryoung-Neira earned the applause of the audience with her innumerable fouettes, which she executed flawlessly. Beautifully complimenting each other, Kotoe Kojima, Mari Sugawa, Albert Davydov and Gleidson Vasconcelos presented a wonderful pas de quartre.

A special mention goes to Era Jouravlev, who sparkled in the role of Gypsy. Her elegant backbends and expressive face and hands lent a charming theatrical touch whenever she appeared on stage.

The New Philharmonic of New Jersey, under the direction of Leon Hyman, gave a solid performance accompanying the dancers throughout. Maestro Hyman, who has conducted for the renowned Joffrey Ballet on tours of the U.S. and abroad, has an extensive history accompanying dance, orchestra, chorus, opera and theater, which was quite evident.

Esmeralda was performed for one night only. Upcoming performances at the Community Theatre by New Jersey Ballet are Gershwin at the Ballet on January 12, Agnes DeMille's Rodeo and Giselle Act II on March 29, and the company premiere of Swan Lake Act II on May 17 (all 2008).
Julia Vorobyeva is Esmeralda and Andrei Jouravlev is Captain Phoebus in New Jersey Ballet's production of Esmeralda.

Julia Vorobyeva is Esmeralda and Andrei Jouravlev is Captain Phoebus in New Jersey Ballet's production of Esmeralda.

Photo © & courtesy of Joseph Schembri


Esmeralda (Julia Vorobyeva) and Quasimodo (Konstantin Dournev).

Esmeralda (Julia Vorobyeva) and Quasimodo (Konstantin Dournev).

Photo © & courtesy of Joseph Schembri


Archdeacon Frollo turns a deaf ear to Esmeralda's pleas to spare her life.

Archdeacon Frollo turns a deaf ear to Esmeralda's pleas to spare her life.

Photo © & courtesy of Joseph Schembri

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