Ballet tests its hip-hop moves
Troupe scores with ‘Wonderland’
By Valerie Scher
UNION-TRIBUNE CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC
October 23, 2006
The tradition of ballerinas in gauzy tutus, gracefully pitter-pattering on pointe, is far removed from the hyper-kinetic reality of hip-hop dancers, bouncing, kicking and twirling as if in an urban carnival.
Yet the San Diego Ballet artfully and entertainingly combined both styles at Horton Plaza’s Lyceum Theatre, where the company opened its 17th season on Friday and Saturday.
By featuring choreographer/co-director Javier Velasco’s balletic new “Rhapsody on a Theme” and his year-old “Alice: Wonderland,” which combined ballet and hip-hop, the program showed how contrasting aesthetics can coexist in a way that makes us appreciate the qualities of both.
While “Alice: Wonderland” was based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tales, “Rhapsody” didn’t need a story to give it meaning. Accompanied by a recording of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” with the superb Vladimir Ashkenazy as the piano soloist, the dance emphasized CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribunepretty patterning and supple partnering, including high-over-the-head lifts. Kristy Cirillo as Alice made her way through other
dancers in the San Diego Ballet’s production, “Alice: Wonderland,” at the Lyceum Theatre downtown.
If hardly profound, “Rhapsody” was enjoyably watchable, much like the works of the Joffrey Ballet’s Gerald Arpino, a master of frothy dance confections.
At Friday’s performance, the women formed a cohesive ensemble and the men were consistently smooth, if not always models of precision. During Rachmaninoff’s climactic theme, Askar Alimbetov smoothly partnered the exuberant Madoka Sato in a showy pas de deux full of lifts, turns and balances. So flexible were Sato’s legs and back that she might as well have been made of rubber, and her smile was joyfully bright.
In “Alice: Wonderland,” the spunk came from San Diego’s Culture Shock Dance Troupe, which supplied additional choreography and dazzlingly energetic performances.
Danced to a sound collage of movie themes, hip-hop, rap and even techno-Tchaikovsky, the episodic work skimmed over the strangely hallucinogenic and threatening aspects of Carroll’s depictions and concentrated on ballet and hip-hop sequences suitable for a broad audience.
CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribune
It was fun to follow Alice (well portrayed by the genial Kristy Cirillo) as she Dinah the cat was played by Rachel Sebastian in the performance by the Culture Shock Dance Troupe left her sun-dappled garden and began her adventures. At times, the action Javier Velasco choreographed both this piece and
was a little murky, as when Alice made swimming motions and other “Rhapsody on a Theme.”
ballerinas were meant to represent her pool of tears.
Some of the characters could also have been more vivid. As the White Rabbit, Alimbetov hopped high enough for a bunny Olympics but didn’t have muchof a personality.
Still, there were effective scenes, as when the playing cards hobbled stiffly across the stage, like a dancing card deck. And whenever Culture Shock was on stage, the ballet rocked (or rather, hip-hopped).
Tweedle Dum (David Henry) and Tweedle Dee (Samath Orm) faced off in a good-natured display of flexibility. As 1 of 2 10/23/06 6:44 AM SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Features — Ballet tests its hip-hop moves http://signonsandiego.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=…
the Mad Hatter, Henry also presided at a tea party where the participants executed their steps with nearly superhuman speed.
No less engaging were Friday’s Caterpillars (Risa Blumlein, Eddie Gutierrez, Claudia Herrera, Orm and Jun Quemado). Wearing outfits adorned with striped socks, black caps and antennae, they were dance-mad insect virtuosos, moving with so much enthusiasm that they didn’t seem to care if they ever turned into butterflies. They crawled, hopped, popped and locked.
And the canny way in which hip-hop was incorporated into a ballet was the real wonder in this “Wonderland.”
Valerie Scher: (619) 293-1038; email@example.com