Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida opened their 2017-2018 season with a program that exactly matched the name: the uplifting, vibrant energy (bravura) from the dancers was felt by the audience with four ballets that reflect South-American and Spanish culture and choreography.
The performance opened with “Viva España”, a new short piece by Vladimir Issaev, the artistic director of the company.
The ballet includes a strong, fast choreography for the women in the corp de ballet (composed by both company members and junior corps), changing into duos, trios, and quartets.
Issaev included challenging partnering work that throws the women in the air, interchanges dancers and puts up to four couples onstage at the same time. Beautiful costumes covered the female dancers, that, although different from one another, the skirts accompanied them on every move.
“Viva España” was exciting for the audience to watch, especially when principal dancer Mary Carmen Catoya appeared towards the end with the entire cast of male dancers, executing a radiant and energetic pas de cinq and leading the whole company for an exuberant and fast finale.
ARTS BALLET THEATRE OF FLORIDA: LATIN BRAVURA. “VIVA ESPAÑA” BY VLADIMIR ISSAEV. PHOTO BY PATRICIA LAINE
“Vértigo”, a dramatic adagio, followed the energetic Spanish-inspired piece. Premiered last May, Issaev choreographed this romantic pas de deux with Mary Carmen Catoya and Kazuya Arima.
“Vértigo” is inspired by a movie of the same name released in 1954, directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Ms Catoya’s emotions were clearly evident in every movement, and with some little changes from the performances in May, both executed an improved duo.
Issaev is, apart from being inspired by the movie, basing the choreography on Baltasar Martin’s libretto, and this adagio will be part of a bigger, whole ballet. This piece is a brilliant sneak-peak of what we can get from the future story-ballet.
Ms Catoya and Mr Arima received a standing ovation after their performance, and it was well deserved.
Yanis Pikieris’ “Danzón” closed the first part of the program. The music by Arturo Márquez, a Mexican composer, is always a goose-bumps experience, exciting on every note. The choreography shifts from fluid to very sharp and flavoured movements following the music as it goes.
One of the things that are most exciting about this company’s new season is the number of male dancers ( a bigger number than they had previously contracted). It was a great joy to see more male interchanging couples and contrasts in between the simple, red costumes the ladies wear and the all-black costumes from the men.
Lusian Hernández and Haowei Zhu; Janis Liu and Johnny Almeida; and Hinano Eto and Kazuya Arima comprised the three pas de deux Pikieris included in the choreography, each different from one another.
For the corp de ballet, now in pointe shoes, the choreography changed (from the original one), adding more steps into some spaces the music was alone.
“Danzón” will always be a joy to watch as the music goes crescendo. This time, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida dedicated the piece to Mexico and the recent difficulties due to the earthquakes.
Nuestros Valses (Our Waltzes)
Both the audience and the company were looking forward to the last piece the most. Vladimir Issaev reserved one of his favourite pieces from the renown Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada for the company’s 20th Anniversary: “Nuestros Valses” (Our Waltzes).
This piece is exceptionally important for the history of ballet and the arts in Venezuela, as “the movements express the definitive idiosyncrasy of the era (end of XIX century), resulting in a unique work that represents his country’s passionate temperament“.
It also represents an important time in both Issaev’s and Ms Catoya’s careers. Both were deeply inspired by this piece, in one way or another.
Danced by five couples in different colors and with music composed by Teresa Carreño and Ramón Delgado Palacios, “Nuestros Valses” begins in a beautiful pose as the piano starts.
With a series of almost interminable balancés (waltzes) in canon or intercalating colors moving along the stage, the couples make beautiful paths to what is coming next.
The choreography repeats a similar sequence in between each of the five pas de deux. Nebrada’s typical arms (passing from the top of the head, close to the face, with the palms facing outward) were evident on individual parts, turns and partnering work; always a beauty to watch due to the fluidity it adds to the choreography.
Each of the pas de deux represent a strong connection between the man and the woman. Janis Liu and Johnny Almeida executed an excellently connected, dramatic pas de deux as the Brown couple.
Hinano Eto and Kazuya Arima were controlled and musical in their pas de deux, the Lilac, which had a sadder character to it. Ms. Eto personally confessed that “though difficult, it was a very fun piece to perform“.
They were followed by the Pink couple, conformed by Rieko Hatato and Masanao Ito, with an evidently happier character. Ayami Sato, along with Kevin Zong, performed the “jumping” Orange couple, which does not have much partnering work but rather combinations of fast jumps and rapid transition steps challenged to be together.
Ms Catoya and Haowei Zhu, the Red couple, danced a beautiful pas de deux, flirty, fun and extremely musical. For Ms Catoya, it was very evident that revisiting the piece was a true joy to her, and the audience could tell and gave her a second standing ovation.
Nuestros Valses closed with a powerful finale, and the company executed it brilliantly, being so young and the piece being created for more experienced dancers with challenging lifts and fast transitions that follow every note of the music.
Legends from the Venezuelan gold ballet era were at the audience and made the staging possible. Many of these people were witnesses of “Nuestros Valses” original performances in Teatro Teresa Carreño in Caracas, Venezuela.
Some of them included Zane Wilson (from the Nebrada Foundation and who staged “Nuestros Valses” with the company), Yanis Pikieris, and Vladimir Issaev themselves. Also, Maria Antonieta Blanco, Noelia Rodríguez, and Vanessa Coste, fellow dancers of the Ballet Nacional de Caracas.
Other dancers that worked with Nebrada himself for many years, like Elsy Barrios, visited the company days previous the performance. This reunion made this event historical, especially with Mary Carmen Catoya performing, who also worked with Nebrada for many years when she was younger.
Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida closed the evening leaving the audience wanting to watch the pieces again. You can still watch this program if you are in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area. Their next two performances will be at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on October 14th and 15th, at 7:30 pm and 3:00 pm respectively. If you want more information, visit their website at www.artsballettheatre.org