Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kings of León

Corella Ballet Castilla y León
Electrify and Eclectify LA

by Donna Perlmutter

Never mind that the singular and overwhelming thrill of Angel Corella’s ballet company – making its debut at the Ahmanson Theatre Friday – was the dancer’s own sole performance.

Corella Ballet Castilla y León bears the stamp of a savvy artistic director, one who knows how to fill a stage with polished dancers, an appealingly eclectic repertory, the right balance between classical-derived and contemporary ballet, and a flamenco nod to his Spanish origins and sponsors.

So whatever else the luminary of American Ballet Theatre does hardly matters. But when this small dynamo unfurled his fingers, in answer to a flamenco singer’s anguished cry, a thunderbolt shot through the house. Here, in “Soleá,” a duet for himself and sister Carmen Corella, was expressive power at its most commanding. And from that first gesture onward, he discharged a breath-takingly ferocious passion -- it came in knife strokes, surging from his body’s core through his torso, shoulders, arms; it did not depend on the brilliance of his bravura technique (more spins, barrel turns and variations thereof than imaginable). So, yes, the audience gasped and roared its applause at the end.

But it was not a smart move to allow another dancer onstage with him for this number. Lovely though she is, his too-tall sister was merely overshadowed, un-looked at, even. The moment was rivetingly his.

He made it up to her, however, in Stanton Welch’s “Clear,” in which the long-limbed lyrical dancer was the only woman in this bare-chested but chaste male showcase with its tasteful choreographic conterpoint marking the Bach score it was set to.

Clark Tippet’s “Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1,” which opened the program, made its apt announcement to the world: “Get ready, folks, we’ve got a big ballet company here. Yes, it’s only two years old, but it’s not a small-start enterprise.”

And, except for some tentativeness among the soloist couples (fixable by tweaking their partnering maneuvers), the lush Romanticism of the title music struck just the right note for the multi-part, tutu-and-tights epic that used the whole troupe – corps and principals converging in many phalanxes -- to glitteringly complex advantage á la Balanchine.

For its finale there was Christopher Wheeldon’s “DGV,” also a major, stage-filling work but one with a contempo look and sound. Its acronym of a title, standing for “Danse à Grande Vitesse,” refers to the French high-speed train-line opening (we should be so lucky), commemorated by Michael Nyman’s score, a thing of momentous minimalism (and that’s not an oxymoron).

The ballet boasts sleekly flowing, sometimes quirky, ever-energetic movement with moderne accents. Jean-Marc Puissant’s set, underground industrial, and his costumes with their painterly Mondrian motifs, went far to complement the choreography’s inventive permutations. But the relentlessly chugging music, dense and calamitous, left me feeling exhausted. Not enough, though, to blot out the calling card of this impressive company.

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