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Dance Review : Joffrey Brings 'Billboards' Back to L.A.

July 01, 1994|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE WRITER

He may be an unspeakable graphic symbol in the world of rock 'n' roll, but Prince is still "Prince Rogers Nelson (stage name Prince)" in the composer credits for the Joffrey Ballet's "Billboards" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

After performances here a year ago, plus home video and PBS editions since, "Billboards" returned to the Southland on Wednesday, danced as strongly as ever--and creatively just as much a mess. The problem isn't with the ex-Mr. P's music: It's eminently danceable, as he's proven in his far more interesting and provocative music videos.

No, what's wrong is the slate of choreographers chosen by Gerald Arpino for the project--artists, in several cases, ill-prepared to use the technical resources of ballet, much less take classicism into Paisley Park. Would "Billboards" have been any less popular as choreographed by, say, Donald Byrd, Bebe Miller, William Forsythe and Edouard Lock? Hardly. But it might have been much more bearable the second time around.

On Wednesday, Laura Dean's section ("Sometimes It Snows in April") again looked classy, with the corps dancers building up static electricity in the formal, large-scale unison choreography and then sending out lightning bolts of virtuosity in the culminating technical display.

With her heart-shaped magic wand, Lissette Salgado expertly led the endless crotch-and-derriere probes of Charles Moulton's "Thunder" segment. In Moulton's "Purple Rain" solo, Elizabeth Parkinson unleashed so much energy and passion that crude gesticulation fleetingly became dance.

Capitalizing on bold, artful contrasts in dynamics and emotion, Tom Mossbrucker made his first local appearance in the Margo Sappington "Slide" choreography originally created for him. Definitely the focus this sprawling sequence needs. However, Pierre Lockett looked lightweight in the hyper-macho "Release It" sideshow and Beatriz Rodriguez is beginning to resemble a computer simulation of herself in her pseudo-sensual hair-stroking.

An injury to Philip Gardner found Mossbrucker also leading the Peter Pucci ("Willing and Able") finale opposite the sober, pliant Jodie Gates. Unfortunately, he hasn't the right legs for Christine Joly's thigh-specific shorts and boots and his sense of interpretive restraint seemed misdirected.

Yes, there are indeed ballets in the Joffrey repertory that benefit from Mossbrucker's type of understatement and subtlety. But when your partner is inserting her scarlet toe shoe in your mouth, good taste is simply beside the point.

* Joffrey Ballet, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave.Tonight at 8 , Saturday, 2 p.m. ("Les Patineurs," "Return to a Strange Land," "A Tri-Fling," "Les Presages"); Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. ("Billboards"). $15-$55. (213) 480-3232.

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