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Diablo Ballet

New Year Celebration -- Kelly Teo’s "Dancing Miles," Nikolai Kabaniaev’s "Bach de Trois," Norbert Vesak’s "Belong Pas de Deux," and Val Caniparoli's "Open Veins"

Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA

January 13, 2001
By Karen Drozda

Diablo Ballet's latest Zellerbach Hall performance was purely a pleasure to watch. The light-hearted jazzy pieces flowed effortlessly from one to the other, providing humor, variety, passion, grace and intellectual challenge. Billed as "The Best of Diablo Ballet", the performance did indeed live up to its name.

Artistic Director Lauren Jonas admitted that the selections were tailored to the taste of the more urban audience expected at Zellerbach Hall, leaning a bit more to the modern side of the ballet spectrum. Working within her preferred formula, the program showcases work by two company choreographers, a West Coast Premier by an emerging young choreographer, and one seldom danced work of a historic nature. The historic piece is frequently a resurrected Balanchine, but this time she selected a work from the 60's.

Another departure from Diablo tradition was the absence of their trademark live orchestra. Each one of the pieces performed required its own recorded music, rendering the orchestra unnecessary. Although live music is one of the elements that so clearly delight Diablo audiences, recorded music did not detract from the virtuosity of the performance.

Company dancer/choreographer Kelly Teo's "Dancing Miles" was danced for the third time since its World Premiere at the Concord Pavilion in 1999. Minor polishing has improved it with each performance. Dancers dressed in black on a dark stage perform in the cages of dramatic spotlights. Three couples play out variations on couple interaction, based on Davis' relationships with his three wives. One of the most memorable interludes features the six dancers and their shadows, in a fascinating interplay of direct and indirect images using three large translucent panels.

Nikolai Kabaniaev, another Diablo dancer/choreographer, presented his "Bach de Trois", a pas de trois danced by sisters Corinne and Lauren Jonas with Richard Marsden. The two women, dressed in identical red leotards with short ruffled skirts, move to the measured Bach rhythm like slightly irreverent metronomes. The single male dancer runs between them coordinating their movements. Moving to the music is something so simple and obvious, but Kabaniaev's choreography made it both fresh and funny. It is a subtle and sophisticated humor that tickles the funny bone and makes you want to break out into giggles.

The "Belong Pas de Deux" from the full length ballet "What to do Til the Messiah Comes", was originally choreographed by Norbert Vesak with contemporary staging by Marina Eglevsky. It is a romantic visual poem set to the electronic sounds of 60's rock group Syrinx. Tina Kay Bohnstedt and Kyongho Kim seemed perfectly matched as they glided through the series of sensual paired movements that make up the demanding choreography. The result was a touching and timeless performance that truly engaged the audience in its fantasy.

Last on the program was a West Coast Premiere by choreographer Val Caniparoli called "Open Veins" based on the death of Petronius Arbiter, an official in Emperor Nero's court. It is well danced by four men, but was less engaging than the other pieces on the program. Most of their moves were in unison and parallel, without very much interaction with each other or the audience. The idea of choreography for men only is interesting, and bears further exploration.

It was one of those rare nights when each dancer danced their best, and nothing detracted from the miracle of their movement through space. Christopher Young seems to be dancing even better than he did last year, when he danced his first season with Diablo Ballet. Richard Marsden, new this season from New York, enlivens the stage with his unique bounce and sparkle. It is easy to imagine his expression growing in power as he becomes a part of the troupe.

Diablo Ballet's next performance will be the 7th Anniversary Celebration at their home base, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, on March 16 and 17. Check it out!


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Edited by Marie.

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