Joffrey Ballet Concert Group
An Evening of Dance: Valse Fantaisie, Confianza, And So It Was…, Tessellations, Spring Waters, Suite Saint-Saens
New York, New York Live Arts
26 May 2016
The Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, a pre-professional troupe of young dancers under the direction of David Robertson, performed a mixed but very split bill on Thursday night, roughly dividing the six-work program into two moods: spring/summer and dark and stormy. The opportunity for young dancers to perform onstage in a non-competitive environment is a great one, and this type of highly diverse programming is on par with what they might encounter at any number of professional companies nationwide.
The two best works bookended the evening: Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie and Gerald Arpino’s Suite Saint-Saëns. Balanchine is a good vehicle for Shaina Wire, the young leggy dancer is pert and perky, and has faint traces of a young Darcey Bussell in her visage. Her musicality really showed through in her ports de bras and sharp, attacking pique arabesques. The female corps was also on form, tight, together and smiling. Wire’s partner, Sergio Arranz, has yet to master princely decorum. Stiff and straight-faced throughout his partnering of Wire, Arranz showed a glimmer of warmth when his services were required to partner four women. In his attempts to be the distinguished male partner, Arranz makes himself seem rather wooden for such a sunny, joyous piece. His leaps, which have a predominantly lateral focus, could benefit from more verticality. Still, Valse is a challenging work, filled with tricky partnered turns and en masse cardio and these young dancers, overall, look great doing it.
Suite Saint-Saëns by Gerald Arpino is a riot of boisterous dance activity which these dancers take to exceptionally well. Dancers burst out of the wings from all corners of the stage in the first section, “Caprice Valse,” and their energy appears limitless. The male dancers execute a bounding petit allegro completely in sync, and the women smile as if they got their teeth whitened just for you – and there’s nothing wrong with that. The second movement “Serenade,” is a little somnambulist, with the men rocking the women gently as if in a cradle. Great technique and execution were exhibited by Victoria Santaguida, who never missed a beat, and Daniel White’s leaps seemed as if they could go straight through the ceiling. The high-octane work, closing with the composer’s hyperactive percussion and strings, suits these young dancers who gave this piece their absolute all.
Another sunny highlight was Mariana Perez and Jon-Paul Hills in Asaf Messerer’s Spring Waters. The brief, effervescent, very Bolshoi (Messerer was a Bolshoi soloist and dance master; his niece, Maya Plisetskaya) pas de deux set to an orchestration of Rachmaninoff’s eponymous song, is often only ever seen at galas. It has several difficult lifts, leaps and spins (and combinations thereof, including a run into a horizontal leap by the woman into the man’s arms, before being spun around like a tornado). The partnering is challenging, and Hills looked at times visibly vacant (and even scared) as his partner approached, but he should give himself more credit, as he handled the lovely and animated Perez quite capably.
Confianza by Roger Jeffrey is a pensive pas de deux boasting a number of gymnastic feats. The music, from a selection of composers but always plaintive, sets the tone, and Arranz opens the piece shirtless with a contemplative solo. Victoria Santaguida joins him and they do lots of almost and barely touching movements before she wraps herself around him like an octopus. There are a few yoga positions they do together, and many difficult jumps and lifts, including a few which look rather similar to “copulation” lifts seen in Macmillan or Neumeier. The choreography may not be thrilling, but Santaguida and Arranz performed with maturity and these are demanding moves which aren’t leaving dance choreography any time soon.
Dwight Rhoden’s And So It Was… sees a large group of dancers motoring through fast, snaking, and frequently diagonal movements. The women slide on stage like something out of Forsythe, and the work is filled with fidgets of Van Manen and contortions of McGregor. The musicality is hard, nay difficult to find, despite its being set to a Bach partita. Tessellations by Gabrielle Lamb is a vacillating work that seems to want to be whimsical and doesn’t quite succeed. There are chain reactions and movements of bodies like molecules, coming together and broken apart. The first section, set to tango-infused score by the Amestoy Trio feels like a separate piece altogether from the earnest pas de deux, set to Cat Power’s throaty, melancholic vocals, which closes the work.