The magical Joffrey Ballet, the New York company that set up another shop in 1983 at the Los Angeles Music Center, may be finding a second home within its second home, if the warmth of Orange County audience response is any indication.
And with good reason.
In the four-part program at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, the company lovingly showcased two works from its indispensable treasure-house collection of dance revivals--a stellar collaboration from the Diaghilev era and a mid-19th-Century work by which we can measure later developments in ballet.
The stellar collaboration was "Parade," the witty, affectionate, comic, ironic, sad portrait of street performers and their huckstering managers trying without success to lure an audience to a fair in Paris.
This 1917 effort brought together talents no less illustrious than Jean Cocteau (libretto), Leonide Massine (choreography), Pablo Picasso (scenery and costume design) and Erik Satie (music). It was revived by the Joffrey in 1973.
On Wednesday, Philip Jerry bounded so weightlessly as the Chinese Conjurer that one looked for the hidden strings. Carole Valleskey was the engaging ragtime Little American Girl running through quick sketches of American culture, as seen through the eyes of the then-current Parisian smart set. Deborah Dawn and Tom Mossbrucker were the elegant acrobats. But, as usual, the fancy-stepping horse with the irresistible Cubist face brought down the house. Allan Lewis expertly conducted Satie's moody, jazzy score.
The other antique was the pas de six from Arthur Saint-Leon's 1848 "La Vivandiere." This lively, elegant divertissement, reconstructed by Ann Hutchinson Guest, dates from a time when ballet technique was not so advanced as in our super-sophisticated present, when emphasis was on grace, proportion and delicacy of ornamentation.
In fact, so artful and inventive was Saint-Leon's choreography that modest pleasures proved richly satisfying.
Tina LeBlanc danced with grace and verve; Edward Stierle with brilliance and vigor. (Did men really do all these steps in the 19th Century?) The supporting women, Cameron Basden, Jodie Gates, Victoria Pasquale and Kim Sagami, were fleet and delicate, though a bit stiff in the arms. Lewis conducted with aplomb.
By comparison, Ben Stevenson's wedding of neoclassical technique and Soviet-style virtuosity in "Three Preludes," a set of love duets from 1976, already looks dated and strained, though Leslie Carothers and Philip Jerry danced with soulful commitment to romantic expression in excelsis.
Stanley Babin sensitively played the soothing and roiling Rachmaninoff music at the on-stage piano.
With Gerald Arpino's "Light Rain," a group bacchanale cast as a quasi-Hindu ritual (to pseudo-Eastern music by Douglas Adams and Russ Gauthier), ballet technique has been pushed to a hyperactive extreme. As the central bacchante, the amazingly pliant Leslie Carothers (skillfully partnered by Jerry) underwent stretching into seemingly impossible positions, yet so spacious and ample were her movements that she triumphed over the crowd-pleasing gymnastics.
"Light Rain" was presented at the Performing Arts Center in October, 1986, and is the only non-local premiere in the current Joffrey season at the Center.