Joaquin's Most Poignant Prodigal

(photo by Paul Kolnick)

I’m behind on my dance writing again. Here is my piece on V&M’s Bayadere in HuffPost, and several reviews are upcoming on Explore Dance. Just so people know, since I’m so backed up on my writing, it’s very difficult for me to get to emails right now.

On Tuesday I went to see Joaquin De Luz‘s Prodigal Son debut. His was the most passionate, most intense, most pathos-driven prodigal son I’ve seen yet. He had all the high jumps in the beginning, but they weren’t about the acrobatics; he used them to show his character’s pent-up frustration with his parents, his youthful angst, his need to leave home and go out and explore the world. You could see that both on his face and with his body. Later, when encountering the Siren, danced fine by Kaitlyn Gilliland (Mr. Martins, could you please show me Georgina Pazcoguin in that role!), you could really see his seduction, his becoming completely entranced by her. After their sex scene, he runs up this ladder (which later becomes a cross to which he is tied) with such speed and in such a burst of fervor, it’s as if he’s simultaneously still in the throes of rapture and beginning to realize how dangerous she is.

(photo by Paul Kolnick, of Damian Woetzel in the lead role, from the New York Times)

I noticed that De Luz also, just like a very skilled actor, brought you into the world he created by making you “see” props and scenery that the stage simply can’t hold. The way he crawled about the stage after being beaten, the way he looked around and suddenly shielded eyes when glancing upward, the way he scooped his hands along the ground then brushed his body with them, it all made you feel like you were in a vast desert with him, blinded by the sun, blinded by your own shame, and looking desperately for whatever small pools of water you could find, to splash over yourself, washing off your sins. I haven’t seen any of the other dancers be that specific. And then at the end the way he crawled after his mother and sister, grasping at their skirt tails, then, on first seeing him, shielding his face from his father, as he did from the sun, it drove home the drama and pathos of it all so profoundly.

Nearly equalling Joaquin in intensity, albeit with a much smaller role, was Antonio Carmena, who danced one of the son’s servants. At one point he gets into a fight with the other servant, Kyle Froman, and while his jumps over and leaps at Froman are astonishing in their power and precision, they’re almost animalistic. He uses them to show how vulgar and inhuman and corrupting this world of the Siren, which they’ve entered into, really is.

Also on the program was Peter Martins’ Thou Swell, a modernist ballroom-style dance that takes place in a dance hall replete with crazy cool Art Deco mirrors and flashy, sharp-patterened Twenties-style ballgowns. I was excited to learn, via a Joseph Carman article in the Playbill, that Mr. Martins (also Director of the company) was once a champion ballroom dancer in Denmark! No wonder I like this ballet so — it’s not just ballroom through the eyes of a ballet maker, but an authentic combination of the two. Denmark has really produced a lot of ballroom champs throughout the years.

And the program ended with this sweet little late-eighteenth-century-French-styled ballet, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, by Balanchine, replete with ballerinas in decadent, cotton-candy-colored multi-layered tutus, plush, champagne-colored curtains, and a backdrop featuring the palace and gardens at Versailles, one of my favorite places.


  1. Speaking of the “magnificent” Marcelo I noted that you referred to him as a big brawny guy. He does have a beautifully defined body and a handsome masculine face. No doubt about that. But I met him after one performance and in person, in street clothes he doesn’t come off as a big brawny guy. In fact, I thought he was shorter in stature than I would have expected. But that was my impression and I may have this wrong. I think he does look powerful and macho on stage, regardless of his height. And certainly he is not tall as perhaps Hallberg or Steifel are. Just an observation.

  2. I don’t know, SanderO, while I’ve never run into any of them in person, I’ve seen at least one article where they said Gomes is 6′ 2.” I would guess that he’s at least as tall as Hallberg and taller than Steifel. It could be inaccurate, of course, but he must be pretty tall to be dancing with a woman as tall as Part, no?

  3. I think Marcelo’s just as gorgeous as he is onstage!

Comments are closed