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Ballet Nacional de Cuba in Chicago

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The program for opening night at Chicago's historic Auditorium Theatre, was called THE MAGIC OF DANCE. The insert explained that this program offers the opportunity to appreciate in a single performance, the accumulated wealth of centuries of classical ballet developement.

Bringing this program to Chicago was a good idea since Joffrey does not present SWAN LAKE, SLEEPING BEAUTY, GISELLE,COPPELIA or DON QUIXOTE.

The evening consisted of excerpts from the above ballets. Scenery was changed behind a show drop that would lower during bows while the principles continued to bow (a lot of bows!) in front. This system made the program move very well.

All music was recorded by the Orquestra Sinfonica del Gran Teatro de La Habana, which makes me wonder why there were such obvious pitch changes from one section to another.

The dancers were superb. All gorgeous bodies. All incredibly trained. Each ballet was rehearsed to the most ultimate perfection I can imagine. It seemed that every corps member, male and female, could become a soloist at any moment.

The principles were more than worthy of their position. I especially liked Galina Alvarez as Giselle. She had beautiful everything, but I especially liked her port de bras, so old world looking. Lorna Feijoo as Aurora, was a perfect technician with beautiful arms and an honest quality and love of dancing that projected to the back of the house (where I was sitting). Alihaydee Carreno as Kitri was also a perfect technician who was exciting and flirtatious. She turned, balanced and smiled with ease. Joel Carreno as Basilio was amazing and brought down the house.

I must stress that every dancer was wonderful with a near perfect body and perfect technique. It looks to me as if Alonzo teaches the dancers to have Balanchine footwork with a classical feeling added. There is no sloppy footwork in this company, anywhere! They all turn and balance and jump with perfection.

Every excerpt was credited with having been choreographed by Alicia Alonzo, after Arthur Saint-Leon, Lev Ivanov, Marius Petipa etc. I did not care for her takes on these ballets and it made me sad that her choreography, along with the poor scenery and unattractive costumes were what these amazing dancers had to work with. In the wedding pas de deux from SLEEPING BEAUTY, I did not think Alonzo captured the French manners I had seen The Kirov, The Royal Ballet or American Ballet Theatre employ. The pirouette/fish dives, which by the way I first saw performed by Victoria Leigh with perfect French manners and proper English reserve, in Alonzo's version were a circus trick. Lorna Feijoo found herself in a position that had her legs and head all the way to the downstage right first wing. It was out of place and dangeous. Her partner almost ended them both in the pit by the third set. The corps of GISELLE was unbelievable. It seemed in my opinion, that the Cubans have a unique understanding of this ballet. On the other hand they didn't seem to connect to NUTCRACKER at all.

The evening closed with an excerpt from SINFONIA DE GOTTSCHALK choreographed by Alonzo. It sort of looked like her version of WHO CARES. Once again, it was so well danced that I couldn't not like it.

The company will perform COPPELIA this weekend.

I heard through dancers I know that the Cuban dancers don't have enough shoes. I went to the Joffrey studios after the performance with one of the Joffrey dancers and he gathered all of his old dyed performance shoes. We went to the pointe shoe station and cut off lengths of elastic, and the Production Stage Manager gave us ten Joffrey crew t-shirts. We put it all in a shopping bag and it will be taken to the dancers before they leave, this weekend.

I saw Alonzo dance with ABT twice. One time in the summer of 1975, when she danced the White Swan pas de deux, and again in the early eighties when she danced CARMEN.

It was wonderful to see her on stage last night, bowing again!

[ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: glebb ]

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Thanks very much for posting that, Glebb. I'm looking forward to the company's visit to D.C. They're getting a good reception everywhere, it seems.

Wonderful idea about the shoes and T-shirts. I'm sure they'll be much appreciated.

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