This production was choreographed by Thierry Malandain, Director of Ballet Biarritz, and is set to Prokofiev's last ballet score. Kirov and Bolshoi versions of the Grigorovitch choreography have been available on video. Malandain's version follows the original libretto fairly closely. Ballet Florida first danced this in Biarritz in 2001 and early in 2002 at the large Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. This weekend's 4 performances were at the smaller Eissey Theater. All 4 were almost sold out and audience resposne was very enthusiastic. This is the kind of artistically amabitious ballet people actually talk about during intermission and after the final curtain.
Malandain's choreography is a very European version of contemporary, and would not have appeared out of place in post World War One Germany. The single exception are the dances for the women at the end of Act I (beginning of Act II in the original version), which are danced on pointe and in classical tutu. The original llibretto describes these as "Scene and Waltz of the Diamonds" and "Dance of the Russian Preciious Stones." Malandain's version reminds me of the Vasiliev choreography on the Kirov DVD. Everything else, however, is contemporary, with lots of angular lines, flexed feet and arms, and a great deal of earnest atheleticism, very well danced by the 6 principals and 15 members of the corps de ballet.
The ballet tells the tale of Danilo, a stone carver who doesn't quite fit in. He has a nice girlfriend and jolly friends, but he's ... unfulfilled. He meets the Queen of the Mountain who challenges him to follow her to her underground kingdom. Once there, he notices that there are some rather sluggish young men (turning to stone?) who have been invited there before him. he realizes he's a prisoner, too.
Meanwhile, Katrina mourns for him. Severian, the brutal foreman, lusts after her and rapes her. Katrina has been a rather dour young woman all along, and this just makes things worse. She meets a Fire Spirit, however, who inrigues and delights her and takes her to the underground cavern. There she reunites with Danilo, confronts and stands up to the Queen, and eventually wins teh Queen's permission to depart. The stones dance as Danilo and Katerina run to freedom. And the villagers welcome them joyfully when the return to the village.
Queen of the Mountain (who also appears as a gypsy dancer for part of Act II) -- Tina Martin
Danilo -- the young stone-cutter -- Gary Lenington
Katerina -- his girlfriend -- Lorena Jimenez
Severian -- the wicked mine foreman -- Tracy Mozingo
Severian's Woman -- Yumelia Garcia
The Spirit (a group of "Fire Spirits" in the original libretto) -- Markus Schaffer
1) I was very much more impressed by this than at my first viewing 5 years ago. Although most of the leads were the same as in the original cast, the company is much stronger in general -- especially the men. Much of the movement is forceful, angular, very fast. The dancers are also required to manipulate large stone cubes which serve as pedastals, stepping stones, hiding places, and -- on one occasion -- a long dining table covered by a huge white and red table cloth. Everyone I spoke to was impressed by the backcloth, which appeared alternately flat and dark, and glittering and full of movement.
2) I loved Yumelia Garcia in the small role as the mistress. Garcia conveys both flirtatiousness and victimhood. She's seductive, clinging, taunting, and even beaten down. It's a remarkable acting/dancing job, and -- for me -- the best work in the performance.
3) Martin reprised her role as the Queen/Gypsy. It's an oddlly drawn role. She wanders in and out. Changes disguises. Plays the athletic dominatrix at times, and a passive observer at others. And she switches to soft grey, diamond encrusted tuto at one point for truly lovely classical dancing with the spirits of her jewels. That's a hard character to portray, and Martin is not as convincing as she usually is. The dancing, especially at the last performance, was strong and eye-catching, as in a series of totally committed, gasp-inducing grands jetes on the diagonal, each one higher than the one before. That's choreography fit for a Queen.
4) Katerina has what might possibly be the uglliest choreography every devised for a young lover. When we first meet her she does a series of deep plies in wide second, each followed by a kick with bent knee and flexed foot. Even when the music is lyrical, Katerina's choreography is not. Jimenez has some lovely moments, but she is not a dancer who finds it easy to smile, and the choreography defeats her.
5) Lenington is a superb dancer: light, strong, capable of appearing remarkably airborne. He was sensational as the Man in Red in Lubavitch's "Elemental Brubeck" earlier this season. But Danilo's choreography does not reward those qualities. It's repetitive, simplistic, and rarely ascends into the air. In addition Lenington has difficulty registering feeling on his face. When musing silently over his piece of green malachite, he appears to be zoning out. On finding that his girlfriend has come to rescue him he manages only a weak smile and a blank stare.
6) The stars of this ballet for me were the ensemble dancers: the lovely young women on pointe in the classical classical dances, and the truly marvellous men and women of the mining town in the folk dances ("Russian Dance," "Gypsy Dance," Severian's Dance"). Very impressive, powerful dancing, presented with energy, conviction, and joy. I especially loved the pas de trois of Garcia, Marife Gimenez and Stephanie Rapp in the classical scene. And just about everybody in the village scenes. Bravo!
For a more coherent impression of the performce, here's ....
Mark Lynch's 2007 review in the Palm Beach Daily News
And here's a Dance Magazine review of one of the 2002 performances
Prokovief's last ballet, "The Stone Flower"
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