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Joffrey Ballet

'Suite Saint-Saens,' 'I/DNA,' 'L'Air d'Esprit' and 'Light Rain'

by Art Priromprintr

June 28, 2003 -- Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, Los Angeles

Saturday night's program of works choreographed by the Joffrey's artistic director Gerald Arpino was an entertaining, though hit-and-miss afair that brought out the technical virtuosity of the dancers. But the program but did little to show much more depth.

"Suite Saint-Saens" opened the program. The ballet is a pretty, quick-moving neo-classical work with plenty of opporunity for the dancers to show off their speed and technical abilities. It was an entertaining way to open the program, getting the audience primed for more to come.

Arpino's newly created "I/DNA" brought the excitement level down a notch. The ballet is Arpino's comment on the capital punishment system and the times that it has wrongly executed innocent people, only to find out after the executions that they had found the wrong people. It is an extremely slow moving piece that lingers for long periods of time on individual stage images. The "dramatic" pauses amounted to very little, with a weak attempt to parallel the innocent victims with the life of Jesus. With no narrative, audience's aren't able to tell that the person being executed is supposed to be innocent - only the program states this. The Jesus Christ reference (dressing the executed in a loin cloth and giving him a beard) isn't really enough to really communicate the injustice of executing an innocent man. Ultimately, the ballet fails to accomplish very much by way of dramatic statements.

A classical-looking pas de deux called "L'Air d'Esprit" started the third portion of the program. Dim lighting and somewhat restrained dancing failed to make the piece look like much more than a classical exercise.

The program closed with "Light Rain," a very energetic piece that featured technical trick (wow she's doing the splits upside down suspended between two male dancers!) after technical trick (wow her leg is bent way over her head!) set to a funky taped soundtrack. The piece was entertaining, but I could help thinking, with the lighting, the costumes and the endless, gasp-enducing tricks, that the piece looked like a fancy Cirque du Soleil-type act more than a ballet. I feel like dance can do more than just throwing tricks around, however impressive they are.

Overall, the performance was great fun to watch, however. I'd like to see more of the Joffrey's work that have some depth - genuine depth, not overdone and melodramatic depth in the manner of "I/DNA." The orchestra, conducted by Arnold Roth, was just great throughout the entire performance. "Suite Saint-Saens" was given an especially impressive reading. Throughout the Joffrey's run at the Music Center since Thursday, the orchestra has been playing more like a symphony orchestra than a ballet orchestra - which is the perfect way to do it in my opinion
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