REVIEW: Barcelona Ballet at New York City Center
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 2008, American Ballet Theater star, Ángel Corella , stepped beyond the role of dancer and added Artistic Director to his resume. Now four years later, Barcelona Ballet (formerly Corella Ballet) will gain Corella’s full-time devotion when he retires from his principal role at ABT at the end of this season.
In its second visit to New York City Center, the newly renamed company looked to merge the worlds of classical ballet and traditional Spanish dance in the world premiere of Pálpito (Spanish for “hunch”). A lengthy program note tells us of “a main character who is trying to free himself from the strings that have bound him to his former role of a dancer,” naturally played by Corella who will say goodbye to American Ballet Theatre this June. But before the ballet begins, I can’t help but to worry how the dramatically written synopsis will unfurl onstage.
Choreographic duo, Ángel Rojas and Carlos Rodríguez, don’t get caught in overly suggestive mime, but instead use a score by Héctor González to incorporate the rhythms and authentic spirit found in traditional Spanish movement. The choreography is at times awkward in its transitions between classical and Spanish vocabularies and tends to be unnecessarily showy. But where the choreography lacks subtlety, the young company’s dancers create excitement with a clear hunger for the stage.
Leading the pack is Corella, whose own transition is mirrored in the work with solo moments packed with drama, explosive jumps and turns, and Corella’s signature flair. At multiple points Corella is dancing alone in spotlights with dramatic breath, percussion, and a powerful presence. Following what is clearly meant to be his time of transformation, Corella disappears behind the back panel after a musically cued glance towards the audience that seems to shout “problem solved!”
At other times the back panel serves only to reveal Vicente Soler’s bold costumes — nude dresses, lace unitards, and simpler corresponding outfits for the men. But despite the reveal of exciting new attire, the piece drags on with similar themes of flirtatious and seductive movement. We get the point long before the choreographers choose to end the piece.
Preceding the premiere, the company presents one larger work, Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, and Christopher Wheeldon’s For 4, originally choreographed for the Kings of Dance repertoire in which Corella was featured.
Tippet’s ballet for eight corps couples and four leading pairs is underrated in its ability to create interesting, musical patterning without an overwhelming abundance of movement. A sequence of pirouettes finishing in varied positions first appears in the blue pas de deux’s adagio and later returns for the corps that surrounds them. The grandeur of Max Bruch’s music is met with sweeping lifts and an undertone of romanticism in the featured pas de deux. Momoko Hirata stands out in the pink pas de deux with spot on balances and a vivacious stage presence. In a solo diagonal, Hirata matches every note of the score with accuracy and confidence before being effortlessly lifted by her partner, Alejandro Virelles.
In For 4, Christopher Wheeldon proves that there is value in simplicity. The piece begins in silhouette with elegant classical lines and simple transitions across the stage. Dressed in deep tones, the dancers easily tackle the technical components, but with the exception of Aaron Robison, lack the command of the original Kings of Dance cast.
With young ambitious talent and Corella’s experience, there is no reason that the company should not find a strong artistic voice. It is the choices the company makes in repertoire and new works that will either boost them to a new level or leave them stagnant.