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Catapulting Crossings - Ballet de Monterrey in a polished Joyce debut

by Lori Ortiz
February 26, 2008
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
In a blink, a pair of shoes, a mask, or an appendage deftly disappears from the stage on opening night February 26th. Such is the magic of Ballet de Monterrey's (BdM) melting pot of forms and precise, energetic dancing. It especially engages in several high points of blessed restrained passion and personality.

Under new artistic director Luis Serrano, a Miami City Ballet export, BdM's founding mission is intact—to reap both the Mexican industrial hub's wealth of talent and the Latin cultural identity. Defining the latter isn't easy.

Serrano's "Perfidia," a valentine for his wife Katia Carranza, is smooth as Ice Capades, to Linda Ronstadt singing Alberto Domínguez pop. The beautiful Monterrey-born ballerina also dances with Miami City and followed Serrano to Monterrey. In "Perfida," she drops to the floor while spinning around Carlos Quenedit, a super partner. She slides down him a second time, for our pure pleasure. It's as if the dance's subject, lost love, is allowed to replay.

Serrano brought back choreographer Ann Marie DeÁngelo, BdM's founding artistic director, with a work-in-progress. "La Noche" is based on the Mexican novel "La Noche de Los Mayas." Claudia Kistler, Ivan Freeman, and Sidharta Torres are a love triangle. Primal, athletic movement, music by Miguel Frasconi and Silvestre Revueltas, and the dancers' brilliant energy and feeling, complete this short, sharp narrative. Torres's performance is especially heartfelt. Ballet needs DeÁngelo.

The eloquent Ángel Laza dances Vincente Nebrada's solo "Sin Tí" (Without You). In the end he stands on his knees, cross-legged as if parapalegic and unable to rise without his love. However, throughout his tour de force execution, he shows little regret for his loss. He's happy to have the stage to himself.

In Jorge Amarante's new "Grapatango," the lead couple Dalirys Valladares and Torres rise above Dancing-with-the-Stars with sweat and seething passion. The togetherness of the cast of six is awesome. Face down on the floor, the men pop up like frogs to a jew's harp in Carlos Libedinsky's music. In sexy clubbing clothes, the men slick their hair back and the women toss their blond manes (together). Valladares turns a long leg out, poking the fourth wall, her toe pointed in jazz booties. The floor is squared-off and Tony Tucci's flashing lights are on-the-mark, and sometimes bristling like the total picture.

Of the dances for larger groups, the curtain-raiser, Edgar Zendejas's "Callejeadas," is about Buenos Aires street life. The women look almost inanimate in their poseur unison moves, until the men brush them off to show their stuff. They salaam when the women reenter, and it ends with them all jumping up and down to a light show. This—along with "Danzón" by Yanis Pikieris, and the final "Huapango" with a projection of a Mexican bird emblem—is sexy, showy, dreamy, and full of national pride. But the dancers uniformity in everything from their upright posture to their hairstyles, diminishes the individual and admits stereotypes.

The pretty "Huapango," credited to Serrano, is a celebration of the popular eponymous song by Pablo Moncayo. It features lovely balletic dancing on pointe, flat-footed flourishes by the men, slips and dips that are intentional but nervous-making. The sense of danger is never far in this evening.

"Volver," the penultimate number, chillingly jogs the memory. It begins with a male in a shoulder-stand—his raised legs make an uncanny effigy. The dancers wear ugly masks and a death figure, in a long dress and a platter-sized white mask, haunts the leading couple Claudia Bandín and Yosek Prieto. The music by Chavela Vargas includes dark vocals. "One always returns where love lives" is my translation.

As some readers may know, Ballet de Monterrey recently appointed a new artistic director. Checking the company website before the performance, I noticed "Huapango" by Robert Hill in the repertory. Hill, then artistic director, brought his compacted "Huapango" to BdM's East Coast debut at the Guggenheim Works & Process in 2006. He said he had found "what made that series of sounds come to life." The struggling company under Robert Hill that so impressed New York audiences and programmers on its last visit looks very much more polished this time, a credit to both the old and the new.
Ballet de Monterrey's Perfidia

Ballet de Monterrey's Perfidia

Photo © & courtesy of Unknown

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