A provincial dance company on a shoestring budget doesn't have much prospect of offering revelations to the world. Not when it comes to staging renowned masterworks.
But there are such things as relatively safe artistic bets and the Long Beach Ballet took one with its latest effort, a production of Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps."
Why safe? Because the tumultuous score doesn't require either the scenic specificity or the classical/\o7 caractere\f7 technique needed for the composer's other early ballets: "Petrushka," which this troupe has also tried out, "The Firebird" and "Les Noces." It can thrive on simple choreographic design and abstract tone. It can make an impact by way of a massed corps' driving force and can get by without strictly virtuosic dancers.
And even if the choreography, in this case credited to artistic director David Wilcox, seems barely learned--as it did Friday night in the Long Beach Center Theatre--there is satisfaction enough.
What Wilcox contents himself with is a generalized aura of primal twistings and lungings grafted onto touchie-feelie motifs overlaid with ominous erotic mysticism--not so different from many another realization of Stravinsky's irresistibly elemental music. Despite his elaborate philosophizing on the nature of man in a destructive society, it is the physicality, not the program-notes, that gains attention.
On the basis of Friday's performance, however, Wilcox needs more time to refine and focus his choreographic intent. Too often, some dancers looked tentative--watching one another to stay in sync. And in so doing they lessened the climactic moments as well as the theatrical progress.
That progress involved use of the thrust stage, over which a leotard-clad corps intermittently slithered and crouched. It also included a children's procession; a towering figure who signaled gang-like confrontations and several sacrificial-mating duets. Only the finale was marked with symbolic realism: Eric Rochin, as an athletically fervent protagonist, whirled onstage in a street suit and collapsed under his suicide noose.
The program began with assorted ballet bonbons; they were less persuasive, apart from Helena Ross' performance, than what followed.