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Les Ballets Grandiva

by Robert Abrams
April 19, 2003
Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College
899 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
(212) 237-8000

Les Ballets Grandiva

presented at John Jay College Theatre
899 10th Avenue, NYC

Artistic Director: Victor Trevino
Ballet Master: Paul Boos
Company: Janie Sparker/Deon Allen, Marcia Payday/Marlon Altoe, Heidi Yodelaihihu/Stian Armstad, Yetta Nadalyfta/George Callahan, Karina/Allen Dennis, Yoko Moshimoshii/Brian Joe, Mae Ling Ling/Wilson Li, Pearl Lee Gates/Ari Mayzick, Ginger Snapps/Oswaldo Muniz, Monique Lumiere/Robert Rosario, Alicia "Havana" Bealonso/Alexis O'Farril, Palomina Carrera/Camilo Rodriguez, Tiffany Anne Cartier/Kirk Ruben, Sue Nami/Tetsushi Segawa, Helene Aymondatopoulos/Francis Toumbakaris, Nina Minimaximova/Victor Trevino, Ida Krayne/Raymond Van Mason, Lupe Cerrado/Hugo Vilardell.

www.BalletsGrandiva.com

Review by Robert Abrams
April 19, 2003

If you are looking for serious ballet that doesn't take itself seriously, Les Ballets Grandiva may be what you are looking for. They are an all-male comedy ballet. They very well could be the next big thing. When I first took my seat in the balcony, I thought I was far away from the stage, but these are large ballerinas, so I could see the action quite clearly.

The evening started out with an excerpt from Swan Lake. As promised, men danced all of the parts, including the swans. They showed off graceful styling fused with an ample helping of irreverence. It was pretty clear what was going on, although an insider's knowledge of the plot would likely help follow the story, especially since this version of Swan Lake is peppered with inside jokes that had the clearly insider audience roaring with laughter. They were alternately striving for grace and its awkward counter-system, which was where much of the humor came from. The presentation had a tone which suggested that a company of professionals were pretending to be slightly bumbling amateurs striving for perfection in order to create a satire of Swan Lake in particular and ballet in general in order to create an epistemological stance from which to comment on their art. For instance, there were late entrances, ballerinas who would visibly slump in exhaustion after a segment, and ballerinas who clomped across the stage.

For all of the comedy in this version of Swan Lake, the men did dance en pointe, and were not so bad at it. They did not shy away from full lifts either.

Act II started with a segment from Le Corsaire. While there was some comedy here, it was mostly straight dancing, so to speak. The male dancer (Janie Sparker/Deon Allen) who danced the female role had very impressive pointe technique. How he would compare to top level female dancers is hard to say, but certainly he danced more than well enough to dispel the notion that only women can dance en pointe. Both dancers (Sue Nami/Tetsushi Segawa danced the role of the pirate) were very crisp and very energetic, with stillness at the right moments.

In some sense, Act I was a set-up to lull one's expectations, and thus make Act II all the more sparkling.

Le Corsaire was followed by an excerpt from Carmen. This was more in the comic vein shown in the first act. The audience liked it, but it wasn't my favorite part of the evening.

Act II ended with the Dying Swan (danced by Karina/Allen Dennis). This was a melding of a comic modality with a serious, if strangely angular, solo dance. It was weird, powerful and touching. There was a lot of artificial fog creeping across the stage. I suppose if you contemplate swans long enough, this is what you end up with. What can I say - the swan may have died, but he died well.

Act III was a long work called Ecole de Ballet. It had many amusing moments, but I think people who have been through ballet school would get more of the jokes.

Overall, Les Ballets Grandiva showed off both excellent broad comedy and serious dancing. The playbill is rather amusing too. If you are a ballet aficionado with an open mind, you will find a lot to like.

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