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Ballet Florida dancing very well in contemporary Program 2


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Despite the financial crises and changes of administration, Ballet Florida was dancing very well during their second program at the Eissey Theater. The dancers start the season in great shape. Same for the production team. All in all, this was a very good show.

It's a smaller company than last year -- a core of only 20 dancers. But it's more of a true ensemble company now, better unified in style, speed and technical ability than at any time since I first started watching them 8 seasons ago.

First up was Mauricio Wainrot's Libertango danced to a suite of Astor Piazzola tangos. This work presents a rather stylized (almost balleticized) image of a Buenos Aires tango palace of the 30s. The men wear pleated trousers, long-sleeve shirts tucked in at the waist, and fedora hats; the women are in slinky dark dresses with slits along the thigh.

Four years ago when the company last danced Libertango, the female lead was Maria-Angeles Llamas, a dramatic ballerina who made a strong, even sexual emotional impact. She danced in both the trio as well as the pas de deux. This time around, the parts were split, a sign of greater depth of talent among the women. Marife Gimenez was a complete charmer in her own fedora hat. Where Llamas had toyed with her partners before discarding them, Gimenez played along with them. It was lovely but more light-hearted and innocent.

In the pas de deux, Lorena Jimenez performed thrilling battements and extensions. She was sharp, angular, riveting. This was one of the best I've seen this dancer give. In the alternate cast, Deborah Marquez, less tall and more sunny, was almost as striking: a girl out for a good time, hurling herself intensely into every step and having a lot of fun.

Among the men, I especially liked Mauricio Canete (returning after a 2-season leave of absence). Canete's dancing was the closest to the highly theatricalized tango you would expect from the best dance companies. Canete is not tall, but he expands when he dances. It's hard to take your eyes away from him.

Canete also danced a very brief solo by Ma Cong, originally choreographed for the NY International Ballet Competition. It's a show-off piece which couldn't have been more than 120 seconds long. Those 2 minutes are packed with super-swift movement, quick jumps, tours en l'air, inventive gestures for arms and hands, and tragic-comic desperation. You need a lot of control to pull this off. Canete was wonderful. Shannon Smith -- a taller dancer, more muscular and more conventionally handsome -- was equally good in the alternate cast, bringing out darker and more ominous qualities.

Vicente Nebrada's Lento a Tempo e Appassionato is a pas de deux. Ballet Florida's rep is filled with Nebrada works, which is both a blessing (they're relatively easy and often quite lovely) and a curse (they're not very interesting on the whole). Danced in cream-colored unitards under brilliant lighting, the piece contains gorgeous poses, dramatic lifts, and a great deal of rushing into each other's arms. The music, a 3-movement piano sonata by Scriabin is indeed about as "appassionato" as music gets. The philosophy "more is not enough" applies to both the choreography and the score.

Yumelia Garcia, who took all 4 performances, She's lovely and technically very secure, a seductive dancer with real stage presence. On the other hand, over-the-top facial expressions and flirting with the audience instead of your partner can spoil even the best-danced performance. This sort of thing distracts enormously from her exceptional stage presence and talent. It almost spoiled a very promising Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux last season, and it was a bit over the top even for the over-heated Scriabin score.

Daniel Ezralow's Read My Hips -- a guaranteed crowd pleaser -- closed the program. Originally choreographed for Hubbard Street, it's somewhat derivative and has an somewhat dated hipness. it seems more a collection of vignettes than a well-constructed ballet. But it does offer bits of humor, bursts of drama and the unexpected, some cool ensemble work, and a couple of show-off roles. The ensemble strengths of the company worked very well for them here. Standouts for me were Stephanie Rapp, gorgeous with long blond hair, as a kind of leader of the pack and Lorena Jimenez as a femme fatale ice princess with a sense of humor.

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Beautiful. Great to know that BF is surviving and taking its well deserved place, given all the economical strains that it has face in the past. I hope that this troupe grows even stronger for the sake of the south floridian ballet future. Thanks for the report, bart. Hope to hear from many upcoming performances. :thumbsup:

P.S- Are they doing the Nutcracker this year...?

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I enjoyed reading your review, bart, and I, too, am glad that the dancers are growing and that the company is getting more solid and consistent artistically. It's an exciting and important time in a company's growth when younger dancers grow into roles that were once danced only by established stars.

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