National Ballet of Cuba: Impressions.
What a magical Friday evening at the Orange County Performing Arts Center with the National Ballet of Cuba.
With only a couple of flaws it was a wonderful evening with a top-notch company.
First on the program was Giselle with Lorna Feijoo and Oscar Torrado as Giselle and Albrecht.
After a rocky start the truncated version of Act II in the forest made me a little confused but the dance was pretty splendid with the exception of Felix Rodriguez as Hilarion.
The gentleman was frankly pretty awful. Overweight with no apparent dance skills that I could see.
The corps dancing was uneven and as they left the stage I thought “Oh no, what is this all about.” Luckily the entrance of Feijoo and Torrado erased all doubt from my mind and I sat entranced through their pas de deux.
She was fluid and emotional and he was the perfect heartthrob partner making the lifts look effortless and artistic. Her footwork was precise and she also made it look easy. As they danced I was moved so that I had to force back small tears at the beauty of it all and the emotion that was created.
I thought that this was what Guillem’s Giselle should have been like emotionally and wasn’t.
Next were scenes from Act III of Sleeping Beauty with Laura Hormigon as Princess Aurora and Nelson Madrigal as Prince Desire.
The grand ballroom promenade was appropriately grand with only one “off” little thing that I am sure most people didn’t notice. But the wig on the king’s head was WAY askew and looked as if someone had dropped a nasty bit of ratty brown carpet on his head. I had to try very hard not to giggle.
The wedding pas de deux in this ballet is one of my favorite’s with what I call one-arm drop lifts. I know there is a technical term, but I don’t know it.
Even with expecting those three moves I was thrilled at the execution, more daring than I had ever seen before. At the last one, an inadvertent “Holy Cow” escaped my lips to the chagrin of my friend who was sure that the 10 rows in front of us heard me.
Hormigon’s legs were almost over her head as Madrigal held her perfectly still after nearly dipping her to the floor. The whole auditorium exploded with applause.
Madrigal’s variation produced more gasps even though his jump landings were a tad off. But again, I don’t think most people noticed.
Bringing up the end of the first half was scenes from the Nutcracker with the Waltz of the Flowers and a pas de deux between the Lilac Fairy and her cavalier performed by Galina Alvarez and Joel Carreno...brother to ABT dancer Jose Carreno.
According to the program he graduated from school in 1998 and is already a Premier dancer.
To my untrained eye his partnering looked rough but his jumps and turns were right on and was another crowd pleaser.
Which brings up a sore point with me. Is it only American audiences or does everyone clap after the “tricks” whether they be fancy footwork or soaring leaps.
It seemed limited to the back of the house and up in the “cheap seats” but the applause was disruptive, especially during delicate little moments.
And this company does the very Russian thing of taking bows after every solo or variation. Now that REALLY interferes with the flow of the dance. It reduces portions of it to an exercise that says “Hey, look at what I can do.”
After the interval came scenes from Coppelia. These I could have done without. Not my favorite ballet to begin with, but a completely non-charismatic Octavio Martin as Franz — another plumpish male dancer — created a dud.
Hayna Gutierrez won the audience over at the end with some lovely footwork on the diagonal across the stage. I wish I knew the names of all these steps!
Don Quixote was quite nice with very charming dancers Victor Gili as Basilio and Viengsay Valdes as Kitri. Jaime Diaz was a stand out as Espada, the lead toreador. He had beautiful feet and extension and was really quite splendid.
Back in the corps was a dancer that looked like a younger, thinner, taller Acosta.
This excerpt was not as exciting as I hoped but still very nice. I think the long breaks between Basilio and Kitri dancing together and their variations flattened the excitement.
Gili was one of the few dancers that looked like he really loved what he was doing. I had rented a pair of opera glasses and was able to watch faces and this man didn’t just have the obligatory smile plastered on but was actually having fun while working.
Swan Lake was next with scenes from Act II and again Lorna Feijoo and Oscar Torrado did the honours. And oh my. They really are wonderful together. Another teary moment for me.
An odd moment came in the beginning with the corps. All the dancers lined up with beautiful arms MOST all pointing one direction with the exception of one poor girl.
Her arms were going the opposite direction! At first I thought maybe each dancer was alternating but on closer inspection I thought, nope, she is the only one that has arms pointed the other way. And it was the kind of still moment where she couldn’t exactly “fix” the problem without it being very obvious.
It is this kind of moment that makes live ballet so vital!
Bringing up the end was a banal, but pretty piece call Sinfonia de Gottschalk with small “curtain call” solos for the principals and a last chance for the corps to shine.
When it was all done I thought, is that all there is? I wanted more! What better compliment to a company, yes?