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Joffrey Ballet in San Diego: Review

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It is not too often that world renowned ballet companies make their way to San Diego so I jumped on the opportunity to see the Joffrey Ballet perform at the San Diego Copley Symphony Hall on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. I was pleased to see that the repertoire would be all contemporary ballet pieces in which they performed three- Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, and William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

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The program began abruptly with Son of Chamber Symphony choreographed by Stanton Welch, as both the music and the dancing started as the curtain was rising, on the first count of the music, written by John Adams. Four male dancers were surrounding one female dancer, Anastacia Holden, wearing an edgy, modern version of a tutu. Holden performed the choreography with precision and attack. Her sense of balance is something that most dancers would envy along with her petite yet athletic build. The true standout though came in the second movement with a pas de deux performed by April Daly and Dylan Gutierrez. Ms. Daly truly has it all feet, legs, flexibility, turns, and the ability to emote all wrapped into one long and lean package. I could have watched her dance for hours…if only this ballet was longer! Son of Chamber Symphony was my favorite piece of the evening. I could definitely see the Balanchine influence in the choreography which made me want to dance it, of course. (gotta love the “chugs” and the “hip thrusts” in the third movement)

The second piece was Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. After hearing so much about this ballet since it was choreographed in 2005, I had very high expectations. The dancers definitely delivered the feeling that is expected from this short piece. The audience moved and breathed with the female dancer either Christine Roccas or Yumelia Garcia (not clear in the program) as she effortlessly enchanted them all with real raw emotion during her pas de deux to the famously haunting music Spiegel im Spiegel in the second movement.

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The third piece, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated reminded me of the type of ballets the Joffrey is known for. As a kid, I remember Billboards and this ballet, particularly the costumes, gave me that early 90’s kind of feeling. The choreography looked fun and the dancers executed it well, however the music was in my opinion revolting. The standout of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was Christine Roccas who fluidly moved through the piece, executing multiple turns with ease. The dancers were really able to show off their technical “tricks” and abilities in this piece whether it be flexibility or turns. The men were landing five and six pirouettes like nothing and my jaw definitely dropped a few times in regards to a particular female dancer’s a la seconde turns. While I enjoyed watching the technicality of this piece, I did feel that the costumes were a bit dated. Not to mention that with the black tights, you could not see the dancer’s legs at times.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my evening seeing the Joffrey Ballet perform these three pieces. This performance proved why Joffrey Ballet is and always was one of the top ballet companies in the country. I look forward to seeing how these talented dancers progress!

*Please note that none of the photos shown on this page are mine, nor am I claiming them to be my intellectual property.

Complexions Contemporary Dance Review

As a professional dancer in San Diego I do not get many opportunities to see truly great dance companies perform without having to travel to another city. It has been a long time since I have been excited to see a company as I was when I purchased tickets to see Complexions Contemporary Dance perform at the Birch North Park Theatre in San Diego on Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm.


The evening started off with a piece called Moon Over Jupiter choreographed by Dwight Rhoden set to classical music by Sergei Rachmaninov. From the moment the curtain opened I knew that this one was going to knock my socks off. The Women wore nothing but leotards, showing off their tight and toned legs that even the best body builders would be envious of. The Men were shirtless sculptures of art that definitely showed off the demands of the intricate leg and foot work displayed in Rhoden’s choreography. I was wowed by this piece like I haven’t been in years. The choreography embodied the technical athleticism and intelligence that the dance world has not seen since George Balanchine. The “slides” which may have looked like mishaps or slips to uneducated audience members very much reminded me of the hip thrusts in the ballet Concerto Barroco (Balanchine). This was my favorite piece of the evening because of the stunning athleticism and stamina required by the dancers who are so lucky to work for such an amazing choreographer. Notable dancer was Sabra Perry who’s fluidity of movement shocked me. At first sight, this gorgeous long limbed dancer is awkwardly tall and very Darcy Bussell like. I have never seen long limbs move so effortlessly and Rhoden’s choreography clearly suits her well.

Moon Over Jupiter

After the first intermission three pieces were presented, none of which I was particularly fond of. Moody Boot Blues started off fabulously but I wished that it was longer. Desmond Richardson’s solo, Moonlight, was amazing and emotional of course but I would have liked to have seen a more dancy solo. This was a great break from the technical pieces though and I feel that the audience received it well. My least favorite piece of the evening was On Holiday which reminded me of being at one of my Dad’s ( a Jazz Musician) Jazz clubs as a kid. Great choreography, great concept but a bit boring and slow to watch.

Moonlight

The highlight of the evening was Rise, a piece choreographed to music by U2. The feel was automatically one of a rock concert with music blaring, smiling faces, and a feeling that dared the audience to get up and start head-banging. This piece was so much fun to watch and looked like even more fun to dance. It reminded me of one of my favorite ballets Brand New Day by Kevin O’Day, which was a ballet done to the music of Sting. Notable dancers were Patricia Hachey who’s flawless training and technique truly shined as the song lyrics radiated from her being and Natalia Alonso who’s gorgeous physique continued to amaze me throughout the evening.

Rise

Overall this was an amazing evening that refreshed my opinion of dance. I feel that Rhoden’s choreography is truly the way that the dance world should be headed with the athleticism, long lines, and organic movements that aren’t tastelessly contemporary nor too safe like much ballet choreography these days. This was the perfect blend of everything that you would want from a truly great dance performance.

Black Swan – Take a Bow

Photo from perezhilton.com

I have waited quite some time to give my take as a professional ballet dancer on the movie Black Swan. Recent press regarding the controversy involving Sarah Lane (a beautiful American Ballet Theatre Dancer) as Natalie Portman’s “stunt double” has prompted me to break my silence. Having both experience on film and as a professional dancer I’m going to offer my perspective on the whole thing and how the dance world is so different from Hollywood.

After reading an Entertainment Weekly article written by Adam Markovitz, (you can read it here) it is clear that Ms. Lane is a bit upset over her role in the movie Black Swan. It seems that the producers didn’t properly define her role as a stunt double in the film. Unfortunately, being a stunt double is a very thankless job when it comes to academy awards.

Just as Lane is quoted as saying that Portman’s portrayal of a dancer is “demeaning to the profession (ballet),” I feel that Lane’s primadonna attitude in these articles doesn’t make the profession look much better. This primadonna attitude is exactly the reason why dancers have such a (excuse my language) bitchy reputation.

Could legal issues follow these accusations? Lane claims that though she was “told not to talk about her work to the press” there was no non-disclosure clause in her contract. So who advised Ms. Lane to speak up? Surely she has an agent. Surely someone went over the contract with her. I understand the work that Lane put into the few dance scenes that were in Black Swan, but I do not think it is right for her to slam Portman and the movie. This is something that should have been advised against, and if this is merely a business issue, why is it being aired out publicly?

On to the Oscar Controversy:
Whomever did the dancing in the movie is not the reason why it won an Oscar. I understand that some in the dance community feel that Natalie Portman won the Oscar for her “upper body” portrayal of a dancer, but if you truly watch the film you will see that it is far more than that. Natalie Portman received a much deserved Oscar for her work as an actress, not as a dancer. In fact, if you watch the movie again you will see that there really isn’t much dancing in the movie at all. Has Lane seen the movie?

So why the controversy? One thing that us dancers have is pride. Our profession feeds off of acknowledgment (think bows at the end of a performance) and acceptance. I think that Lane feels the need for a bit of closure since she didn’t get to take a “bow” after her performance as Ms. Portman’s stunt double. Slamming the movie you worked on and the actress who’s “acting” awarded her an Oscar is hardly applause worthy.

I have yet to read a response to this controversy by the ever poised Natalie Portman’s who’s dancer fiance Benjamin Millepied has spoken up saying that “85 percent of that movie is Natalie.” Will we hear a reply from her? Also, please do not see this as an attack on Ms. Lane or her dancing, rather a look into the business side of things. I am looking forward to seeing how this one unfolds.

This Blog post was inspired by the Entertainment Weekly Article “Black Swan double claims Natalie Portman only did 5 percent of full body dance shots in the movie” Written by Adam Markovitz. http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/03/25/portman-black-swan-double/