Capped by a small-scale, revisionist production of Mikhail Fokine's 1911 "Petrushka," the stimulating four-part Long Beach Ballet program Saturday afternoon in the intimate Center Theater honored Fokine's major ballet reforms through an emphasis on customized dance expression.
As if searching for ways to enrich or renew the academic ballet vocabulary, three young choreographers developed their works from folk, social and court dancing, as well as from religious ritual--just as Fokine had often done.
With their concentrated unison passage work, these three pieces drew from the ensemble a high level of precision, but technique always remained subordinate to dance design. Nobody flung flashy steps in the teeth of the audience.
Indeed, except for minimal (and almost half-hearted) pointe choreography in Helen Coope's new "Aymara," the program remained utterly free of conventional classicism. The art of ballet, the afternoon reminded us, has deeper roots and wider resources than 19th-Century Franco-Russian style.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Tuesday February 25, 1986 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 4 Column 3 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
In Monday's review of the Long Beach Ballet "Petrushka," artistic director David Wilcox should have been credited (with Christopher Tabor) for the restaging of Fokine's ballet.
Although set to breathy, rhythmic Peruvian pipes, "Aymara" resembled nothing you might see in Lima or Cuzco. Seasoned with ethnic (Spanish and Andean) elements--including flexed feet and shivery torso accents--it presented the eight-member cast as uniformly elegant villagers moving through fluid geometric configurations and intricate solos or duets with the same flirtatious elan.
More artful in stylistic insights, Victoria Koenig's quintet "Airs and Dances: Thoughts on an Earlier Time" used Renaissance music and a courtly, gestural style to suggest social structure and, in its central sequence, a sense of isolation and dependence among three women. Like "Aymara," its form seemed arbitrary (reportedly, the sections had been shuffled after the program was printed) and its effect inconclusive, but it confirmed in a new way Koenig's sensitivity to music and movement.
Set to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," Francisco Martinez's "Three Men" began formally, promisingly, with powerful reaches and extensions by the three that developed into muscular lifts and other interaction and, increasingly, into over-literal Christian imagery--a danced passion play, in fact.
Obviously, Martinez didn't invent cruciform poses and his use of them didn't extend the implications or freshen the experience of Jesus' suffering. Against familiar music of great intensity, he placed familiar images of great intensity, nothing more. And a commemorative act, however sincere, isn't the same as an original artistic statement.
Reconceived for a 27-member cast, David Scott and Christopher Tabor's staging of "Petrushka" needed stronger mime skills than the energetic company could command in order to make the underpopulated fair scenes play with their needed variety of effect.
Moreover, Scott and Tabor often changed and distorted Fokine's dramaturgy in the puppet-show scenes--usually to sharpen conflict or heighten the dark magic associated with the Charlatan.
Tabor offered a persuasively childlike yet unsentimentalized performance in the title role and Angelica Ricci made a perfect Ballerina Doll: punching out her steps and gestures of emotional attachment with sublime vacancy.
Martinez exuded eerie menace as the Charlatan, but David Cesler found the comic brutality of the Moor Doll less within his range than the sinewy emotionalism of the Christ-figure in "Three Men."
The program also offered three opportunities to savor the polished, radiant dancing of statuesque Lesli Wiesner, once a major compensation at Los Angeles Ballet performances and now a Long Beach attraction to rival the Queen Mary in grand-scale magnificence.