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Lori Ortiz
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
New York City Center
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Corella Ballet Castilla y León U.S. Debut

by Lori Ortiz
March 19, 2010
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
Ángel Corella's home base of Castilla y León is at the heart of his "String Sextet" and the personalized, nationalized classics he brought to New York. Of course, he wanted to show us everything that the company can do.

It is never a given that great dancers can also choreograph. But in Corella's first work, and his company's US debut at City Center March 19, 2010, we saw classical technique and form in dazzling, forward-looking ballets.

They began with "String Sextet" for six couples and a corps of six couples, to the eponymous Tchaikovsky subtitled "Souvenir of Florence." Corella's musicality is an immediate hook and "String Sextet" signals an emerging voice. How do we find strong Spanish flavor in a ballet about Florence? This is just one of the evening's unpredictable joys.

The moves are short and sharp. The women's arms are straight. Their expressive, balletic wrists and hands do not turn like the Spanish dancer's. The females bravely lean backwards into their partners' torsos in one memorable tableau. As in an ideal world, there is never any dragging of the women. Instead, we feel total, mutual respect and team play. In the Second Movement, Maria José Sales does reeling turns during an odd, slowing of the music. Her silent, pique steps on point weave around a horizontal line of men. Joseph Gatti is princely and sharp in his Third Movement solo. A unique, modern balletic ambulation is a recurring motif; partners travel together, throwing right arms forward into identical, full circles. Music and movement bring to mind Italian folk dances, without actually incorporating them. "Sextet" says "Florentine splendor" in ballet.

ABT's fabulous Herman Cornejo with Cuban-born, strong, sparkling principal Adiarys Almeida, dance the "Black Swan" pas de deux in the program's central section Her chill is palpable in this cool, lusty performance. Cornejo is a heartthrob. Just as spectacular is the wild, 1956 "Walpurgisnacht" by Leonid Lavrovsky, a ballet from the opera "Faust."

Corella's trio of mythological woodland creatures— Yevgen Uzlenkov bounding like a faun, Gatti in a loincloth, and Kazuko Omori as a Diana figure— look completely entrenched and loving the absurd scenario. In the absence of scenery or live music, their virtuosity convinces us and the audience is giddy with applause. The male animals vie for our affection with an array of tours de force landings and turns. The spell is broken, unfortunately, when Kazuko Omori lands on her knees. Really beyond belief.

Maria Pagés' "Soleá" for Corella and sister Carmen is among the short works. In this flamenco-ballet combination, we hear recorded stampas while Carmen bourrées on pointe. Ballet's delicacy and the ferocity of flamenco are strange bedfellows. After all, the Corella company talking points are lighter-than-air ballon, and silent pointework. Despite my misgivings, in this work about brother-sister love, Corella reaches us as never before— with outsized personality, authenticity, and warmth.

Christopher Wheeldon's award-winning "DGV: Danse à Grand Vitesse" quelled the excitement of the evening. Uplifting passages recall his musical theater inspired "An American in Paris." Those parts unnaturally alternate with brooding, mechanistic movement. A corps of twelve treads back and forth upstage with callisthenic-like moves and vertiginous group swaying, (It is set to Michael Nyman's music that the French railway commissioned.) Sets of central duets feature slow movement that tries hard not to be balletic. The 2006 work already looks dated and derivative. But what could Wheeldon do with the score?

Corella wanted to show us his company's range. Can he find worthy works by his contemporaries? If he owns up to his estimable choreographic talent, and continues to exploit the virtuosity of his dancers in personalized, nationalized, classical ballets, then I want to follow him to the ballet horizon.
Angel and Carmen Corella in 'Soleá'

Angel and Carmen Corella in "Soleá"

Photo © & courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor



Photo © & courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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