Photos top to bottom: Angel and Carmen Corella in Solea, Herman Cornejo and Adiarys Almeida in Sunny Duet, and Corella Ballet cast in Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV. All photos by Rosalie O’Connor.
Last night Corella Ballet Castilla Y Leon made their U.S. debut. It was one of the best evenings I’ve had at the ballet since ABT ended their Met season last July. Angel Corella (beloved ABT principal and founder of this company) is known of course for his bravura dancing, his ability to form a character on the stage even in the few storyless ballets ABT does, his passion, his charisma, his sweetness, his charm, but mostly of course his virtuosity. And even though he himself only danced in two pieces last night (with only a small duet in the Wheeldon), the whole evening had that same overall brilliance. It’s like he managed to find a company of dancers exactly like himself. I don’t know how he did that because I thought there was only one of him, but even the corps members seemed to have all of those qualities.
The night began with Angel’s own String Sextet, his first piece of choreography, set to Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet “Souvenir of Florence.” It was very allegro, very fast-paced, with lots of brilliant partnering — a ballerina would spin at lightning speed into her partner, they’d go into assisted pirouettes or a supported arabesque penchee (with the ballerina’s legs always in a perfect split), another would jump into her partner’s arms and he’d catch her in a variety of positions. Kazuko Omori and Yevgen Uzlenkov completely blew me away, as did all of the couples but those two in particular. It’s like, where did he find these people and how did I not know they existed?! Omori is a brilliant allegro dancer but she also had the qualities of an adagio ballerina, with lots of expression in her upper body. Then, in the third movement, Joseph Gatti blew everyone away with his bravura, Angel-esque solo replete with jetes and fouettes and crazy high tornado jumps. The crowd went wild for him, as expected. Both the duets and solos and the ensemble parts were equally captivating. Toward the end everyone did a fish dive in unison and it’s so sweet. It was like all the best parts of classical ballet — or at least my favorites
Next was Walpurgisnacht, by Leonid Lavrovsky, which reminded me of the Corsaire pas de trois between Ali the slave, Conrad the pirate, and ballerina. Again the beautifully expressive, lightning-footed Omori and high jumping Gatti starred, and the stunning Kirill Radev danced the part that reminded me of Conrad. He had this series of scissor jumps but the splits were forward-facing, straddle position, rather than long-wise, like usual. And then he’d do these multiple pirouettes with these seemingly impossible held-out endings. The crowd was nearly screaming with applause, which doesn’t often happen in New York.
Then was Sunny Duet, from 1973, by Vladimir Vasiliov and Natalia Kasatkina, danced by our Herman Cornejo and Adiarys Almeida. Everyone applauded for Herman when he took the stage This ballet was sweetly romantic, like man in adoration of his woman, with Arabian / Bayaderesque styling. Herman really blew me away last night with his partnering. The pdd began with this extended overhead lift where he looked up at her for what seemed to be minutes, in the end making it into a single-handed lift. I’ve always thought he was a brilliant soloist but that he had some trouble in the partnering, but not last night! He was also very dramatic, and, at one point, where they go into their bravura solos, he played off of her, giving her this “oh yeah, well this is how I feel!” look before doing a bunch of crazy turns or jumps. The original, archived music, by Arno Babajanyan, was played on tape. There was a note in the program stating, “The company is committed to the revival of worthy pieces that have had an important influence on classical ballet. The piece will be performed as it was originally created by the legendary Russian choreographers Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasiliov. The artists will be performing to Arno Babajanian’s archival recording, as this specially commissioned score no longer exists.”
Next was Solea, choreographed by Flamenco dancer and choreographer Maria Pages, and performed by Angel and his sister Carmen. I was happy to see Carmen back onstage; I was sad when she left ABT. This was an absolutely beautiful combination of ballet and Flamenco, though I often see Paso Doble in what people call Flamenco, being a ballroom person — still not sure of the difference… For example, at one point, they would come at each other, she swirling her long skirt about, cape-like, he coming at her like a matador — that’s Paso — but instead of rushing toward each other, hips thrust forward, they’d do chaine spins — she on pointe, spinning right past each other, balletically. Then they’d approach each other again, she’d retreat quickly back with supercharged bourrees. I love it! I’ve always wanted to see a Paso Ballet, but most ballroom dancers don’t seem to know how to choreograph such a thing, even if they have extensive ballet background. Then, during the Flamenco taps (which you can hear in the recorded music), Angel would do his trademark lightning fast fouettes, or else entrechats, or just crazy fast footwork; and she’d do the same on pointe. Flamenco taps on pointe! And each of them had the perfect Flamenco styling. And there was a kind of back and forth “competition”, which I guess is called “Bulerias” in the world of Flamenco, which was kind of like a set of “variations” or solos in ballet, with him doing the trademark jetes around the perimeter of the stage and she responding with her own thing. And at the end, they came together and she stood behind him and he wrapped her arms around him. Sweet. Audience gave them a standing ovation.
Last was Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse a Grand Vitesse, which was I think the most intense, spellbinding Wheeldon ballet I’ve ever seen. It was premiered in 2006 by the Royal Ballet and was nominated for an Olivier Award. Set to music by Michael Nyman, which was commissioned by the French railway company TGV in 1993 to commemorate their opening of a new high-speed train line, there were several large pieces of twisted metal in the background — between which the dancers would weave in and out from time to time. The music had a very “locomotive” rhythm to it and the whole thing — both music and movement — had a kind of eerie feel to it. Movement was trademark Wheeldon — very modern, lots of angularity, sharp jagged lines, unique partnering. Women were often carried overhead and upside down with their legs in a split or sideways with their knees bent outward and toes together, creating an intentionally awkward shape. At times the music would stop completely while the dancing continued — creating some of the most intense moments. This is the first time the piece has been performed outside of the Royal, the program notes say, and, with its intensity, it was a perfect choice for this company.
So, the evening was a celebration of classical ballet, fusing classical ballet with traditional Spanish dance, and contemporary ballet, which seems to be what this company is about. Excellently done!
There’s one other piece on the program, Epimetheus, which will show Saturday afternoon. It’s by a young choreographer / dancer with the company, Russell Ducker. Will report back as soon as I’ve seen it!