YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


City Ballet's caught just a bit out of step

The troupe never locks in to the jazz classics from Atman Ensemble, which end up being the high point of the show.

October 09, 2006|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Oblivious to the music -- that was Robyn Gardenhire's curious stance as a choreographer in the program presented by her City Ballet of Los Angeles at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Friday.

As the artistic director of this 6-year-old company, Gardenhire showcased a number of strongly trained and highly personable young dancers, as well as a cadre of excellent musicians. She also created fluent step-combinations, whether working in a purely classical idiom or a mix of ballet and vintage show dancing.

However, her choreography never connected with its accompaniment, and as the relationship between sight and sound grew increasingly arbitrary, the dancers' best efforts proved insufficient and the music became the dominant positive experience of the evening.

Indeed, the five-member Atman Ensemble delivered jazz classics by John Coltrane with such flair that Gardenhire's "Behind the Red Door" quickly became an imposition on their artistry: nothing but a cheesy nightclub charade, with cigarette girls prancing on pointe, set against music of extraordinary complexity and originality.

Magician Masyseo added his talents to this one-act pastiche and singers Sloan Robinson and James Love made guest appearances.

Cellist Paul Wiancko and pianist Cengiz Yaltkaya skillfully played a transcribed sonata by Leonard Bernstein during "In Life We...," a Gardenhire duet in contemporary classical style with no real shape but plenty of technical difficulty. It was ably executed by Cindy Ricalde and Rick Gonzalez.

Wiancko also provided a focused, muscular performance of a Bach cello suite in the ensemble piece "American Immigrant," though his playing and the dancers' barefoot duets had to compete with a slide show and taped interviews explaining how some 20 people ended up in this country.

Like the musicianship, the spoken commentary was compelling but never linked up with the choreography.

On the previous evening, Bill T. Jones and company showed an audience at USC how many layers of information and creativity can fuse in potent dance-theater.

This, unfortunately, is a lesson that Gardenhire has yet to learn -- though she did provide opportunities for such worthies as Joey Pantaleon, Heather Lipson and Andrew Zutta to make the choreography into a involving personal statement.

Los Angeles Times Articles