Diablo Ballet

'Pairs,' divertissement from 'La Bayadere,' and 'Walk Before Talk'

by Mary Ellen Hunt

March 14 - 15, 2003 - Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California

To celebrate its ninth anniversary, Diablo Ballet presented a program at the Dean Lesher Center for the Regional Arts in Walnut Creek on Friday and Saturday that showed that, while the dancers might be able to do 19th century works, the company is grounded in the 21st century.

The company's most modern work is "Pairs," a commission from dancer Viktor Kabaniaev that's set to Bohuslav Martinu's 1938 Concerto for Double String Orchestra, Piano and Timpani.

The ballet highlights a trio of unexplained, yet charged relationships, and as in Kabaniaev's previous work, "Pairs" evinces a prismatic choreographic style that tends to fracture movement phrases and then coalesce them together appealingly.

Striking visual moments abound. The motif of the men being pulled in and out of their elegant jackets -- which were supplied by the designer Harold Goldstein -- calls to mind a resistance against the pull of fate. And Erin Yarbrough's beautiful central pas de deux with Nikolai Kabaniaev is fluidly and technically secure, while still conveying the sense of seeking comfort and consolation.

In an unusual direction for the company, Diablo Ballet also unveiled a divertissement taken from the wedding scene of Marius Petipa's "La Bayadere," which the Maryinsky (now the Kirov) Ballet premiered in 1877. Saturday, it was staged by Diablo's Kirov-trained co-director, Nikolai Kabaniaev.

The lively excerpt is less austere than many other set pieces from the great 19th century ballets, but it still requires a purity of line and a particular classical style that eludes the company. To fill out the corps de ballet roles, Diablo Ballet brought in eight highly talented young dancers: Sonja Dale, Caitlin Kakigi and Kate Schroeder of Berkeley Ballet Theatre; Marin Fisher, Rebecca King, Melissa Tosch and Danielle Zlatarev of Contra Costa Ballet; and Sadie Strangio from the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C.

The young dancers have obviously paid attention to Kabaniaev's careful coaching; they demonstrated the importance of crisp pointe work and a beautiful extreme line in the shoulders. It is a lesson some of the older dancers might have taken more seriously.

Grethel Domingo, who led the cast with Miroslav Pejic, gave a likeable performance, enhanced by solid jumps and a glittering smile. Several other company members, however, often exuded tension, lending a forced, stiff look to the choreography.

As the program continued, it became apparent that works such as "Pairs" and KT Nelson's delightful "Walk Before Talk" show the company at its best. A duet for Erika Johnson and Edward Stegge perfectly demonstrated the controlled abandon which has always made Diablo Ballet a pleasure to watch. Then too, Nelson's playful style of choreography, set to various pieces of music by Michael Nyman, melds nicely with Diablo Ballet's lighthearted personality and ended the evening on a madcap note.

This article was first published on May 19, 2003 in the Contra Costa Times


Edited by Jeff

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