We have two big state-run ballet companies within a 70-km. range: the Colón and the Argentino. The first had been in sore trouble during 2010; the second had a normal season. Now auspiciously both are active. ( I will write about the Argentino in another article).
As readers are probably aware, the Colón Ballet had a horrid year, with cancellations all over the place and open conflict. The main problem was the quality of both floors: those of the stage and of the rehearsal space. The dancers insisted that they were too hard and inflexible and that they produced lesions, and a big group refused to dance under such conditions. Colón Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi didn´t accept the claim and cancelled the remaining season after the second title of the year. But later (too late) he had second thoughts and said that although the dancers were not right, he would import two state-of-the-art Harlequin floors. Well, one of them arrived and was installed; the other languishes in our customs in one of those recurring and maddening episodes of administrative silliness through the decades.
This year the orchestras are in conflict, although they are now finally playing, but as I told in a recent article, matters aren´t solved and could become unhinged again any moment. And the "light at the end of the tunnel" is getting dimmer, as weeks go by without a solution and frustration grows. In early March García Caffi said in a press conference that there would be no subscription series for opera, ballet or the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. But he did say that there would be ballet performances, if necessary with recorded music. As it happens, the precarious arrangement with the orchestras provided the ballet with the Resident Orchestra (Orquesta Estable) for the first title of the year, the Triple Bill called "Neoclassical Trilogy".
Meanwhile, the fact of having just one new floor complicated matters; it seems the floor is adequate for there have been no complaints from the dancers, but the same Harlequin has had to be used for both the rehearsal room and the stage; blessedly, it can be transported, otherwise we were in trouble. However, and showing again what arbitrariness prevails at the Colón, dancers did complain of insufficient rehearsal because apparently the authorities were waiting for the conflict with the orchestras to arrive at the present arrangement. What is the credibility, then, of the Colón´s Director saying that rehearsals and performances would take place anyway, with or without the orchestra? And as the programme was quite interesting but difficult, some leniency is in order in this review.
Once all this is said and taken into account, however, I must say I enjoyed the show and that it was moving to see with what enthusiasm the whole Ballet intervened. The concept was right: three Neoclassical pieces (one of them a premiere) by valuable choreographers, all of them dead, put on by reliable specialists in their styles. I have pleasant memories of the distant Colón premiere of "Nuestros valses" by the Venezuelan Vicente Nebrada, on charming waltzes by his compatriot Teresa Carreño. Five pas de deux interlaced by transitions led by a couple in red (there´s a different color for each couple) give us a tasteful and charming succession of refined salon dancing. And they were very nicely done, especially by Silvina Perillo and Federico Fernández (red) and by Natalia Pelayo and Alejandro Parente (I saw the cast of April 19). Leonardo Marconi was the good piano player, and the revival was in the hands of Zane Wilson and Yanis Pikieris.
"Marguerite and Armand", the premiere, was Sir Frederick Ashton´s tribute to the art of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, and it tells of course the story of "The lady of the camelias", taking as musical basis the Liszt Sonata in an arrangement for piano and orchestra by Dudley Simpson where the orchestra has little to do. The problem is that (as often with music thought for another use) the dramatic action and the music don´t always correspond. The second problem is that the Neoclassical style is too cool for such a Romantic story. But Ashton was a resourceful choreographer and the piece is worth knowing. The lovers were interpreted with intensity and fine technique by Sofía Menteguiaga and Fernández; it is futile to imagine what Fonteyn and Nureyev might have done with this material. The excellent pianist was Iván Rutkauskas, and the Orquesta Estable was conducted by Carlos Bertazza. Grant Coyle was the transmitter of Ashton´s ideas.
George Balanchine is my favorite choreographer of all time, so I´m partial. I find "Symphony in C" (on Bizet´s symphony), either with this later title or the original ("Crystal Palace" for the Paris Ballet de l´Opéra, with lovely stage designs by Leonor Fini) –I´ve seen them both- one of his best works, the epitome of a choreographer´s musicality, meaning that every single trait of the music is faithfully reproduced by the dance steps, and also of his inexhaustible ingenuity. The principal dancers were Karina Olmedo and Juan Pablo Ledo in the first movement; Gabriela Alberti and Parente in the second; Carla Vincelli and Edgardo Trabalón in the third; and Maricel De Mitri and Gerardo Wyss in the fourth. But the Corps de Ballet has enormous work to do, and when all these fine soloists and members of the corps danced together in the final stretches of the work, the result was astonishing and exhilarating. Victoria Simon was the faithful heir of the choreographer´s imagination. More rehearsal would have avoided small hesitancies, and the Colón Ballet isn´t Balanchine´s New York outfit, but the result was very honorable. The Estable played no more than correctly under Javier Logioia Orbe; however, the dance was the thing, and I´m happy to welcome the Colón Ballet back.