The Fifth International Ballet Gala of Buenos Aires, presented by Grupo Ars at the Coliseo, came just a week after a similar gala at the Colón. And, as has happened in earlier years, the Ars show was better. The Colón´s was given only once, the Coliseo´s twice. I saw the second.
They have more flair to discover and attract talented dancers from several world companies. As at the Colón, they mix standard classics with modern choreographies. I dislike the poor filmed introductions, however: they are very basic and obvious. All the music was recorded. Some pieces weren´t identified, we were only given the names of the composer. Save one case, no information on costume design.
There was one casualty, very probably due to rehearsal work to première "Sylvia" (Delibes-Ashton): the Pas de Deux from "La Esmeralda" (Pugni-Perrot/Petipa), with Colón stars Nadia Muzyca and Federico Fernández, was scratched.
However, other Argentine groups were present, from the Argentino de La Plata and the Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martín. The first offered the refined Pas de deux from "La Sylphide", the beautiful choreography dated 1836 by Auguste Bournonville on music by Herman Lovenskjold: the pure tradition of the Royal Danish Ballet nicely done by Aldana Percivati and Esteban Schenone. From the second, two agile moments from "Las Estaciones Porteñas", by Mauricio Wainrot on Piazzolla´s music, tango-tinged movements danced with precision by a group of seven.
Two artists from the American Ballet Theatre were the Argentine Luciana Paris (soloist) and the American Corey Stearns (First Dancer), both with ample careers. They showed their versatility dancing a vibrant choreography by Liam Scarlatt called "With a chance of rain" on over-the-top Neo-Romantic music by Rachmaninov, and the traditional Petipa Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky´s "The Nutcracker". Paris is lithe and beautiful, Stearns tall and impeccably muscled; both are very persuasive and have excellent schooling.
Friedemann Vogel, First Dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet (of Cranko and Haydée fame), was the tall, skinny and flexible interpreter of "Mopey", a ballet by their current resident choregrapher Marco Goecke on a splendidly vigorous Concerto by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. However, I found the piece excentric; does "Mopey" mean a guy afflicted by gloominess? What I saw was dislocated, capricious and would-be humoristic.
The following solo had been seen before in these galas, but I didn´t mind for it´s brilliant: "Ballet 101" is concocted by Eric Gauthier (revival by Renato Arismendi) on, yes, the 101 positions of classical ballet, with utilitarian music by Jens-Peter Abele. Narrated in English and anonymously, the poor dancer goes at a vertiginous clip through those 101 steps, straight and then mixed, until he finishes exhausted. I admired the stamina and exactitude of Yoshi Suzuki, soloist of the Sao Paulo Companhia de Dança.
Next came the rousing combination of Ana Sofía Scheller and Nicolai Gorodiskii in the extremely difficult Pas de deux from "The Corsair" ( Petipa on Drigo´s music). She is Argentine, currently First Dancer of the New York City Ballet, of Balanchinian descent. And she has all the rigorous discipline of that famous ensemble, along with poise and good taste. He looks like a grown boy, is just 20, has been dancing major roles since he was 16 (he came for last year´s Gala), is now soloist of the Pennsylvania Ballet and a highly gifted athletic dancer. He was born in Ukraine but, still a baby, he came to Argentina and eventually studied at the Colón Institute.
The two also gave us a short and extremely energetic modern piece, "Temporary conflict", steps by Andrea Schermoly on expressive music by Yann Tiersen May; I found it convincing and splendidly danced.
About 35 years ago I had one of the most hilarious nights ever when I saw the parodies of Les Ballets Trockadero of Montecarlo, men doing women roles with fantastic technique in farcical transformations of famous ballets. Then and now, a high point was "Death of the Swan", distortion of Fokin´s original on the famous Saint-Saëns cello melody; in this version the swan loses feathers until its (his? hers?) last breath. Raffaele Morra represented the Trockadero troupe in a version that was indeed funny, though I found it grosser than the older one.
The evergreen Second Act Pas de Deux from "Giselle" (Perrot/Coralli) was presented with marvelous purity by Maria Eichwald, a Russian "prima ballerina" of the Stuttgart Ballet of perfect elegance and style, and by Friedemann Vogel.
Finally, a romp by Jirí Kylián: the Sao Paulo Companhia de Dança presented his "Six dances", with costumes and stage props by Kylián on Mozart´s "Six German Dances" K. 571. It´s a broad parody of the mores of aristocrats at the time of the composer, and considering Wolfgang´s predilection for street humor, he might have liked it if he had been in the audience.
Of course the Paulistas clearly look Brazilian, which adds an exotic touch, but men and women entered into the farce with a vengeance and communicated the constant body jokes and satyric traits of Kylián´s steps, always perfectly attuned to every detail of the music. The interpretation must be finely rehearsed, for the myriad movements work as bits of a perfect puzzle. It´s offbeat humor and it includes strange black contraptions that travel swiftly across the stage. And a decapitation...
So ended a varied and satisfying night. There´s plenty of splendid dancing around the world.
For Buenos Aires Herald