Roberto Bolle and Company Open a Weekend of Gala Ballet with “BalletNow”

Roberto Bolle, a roving superstar of the ballet world with his impromptu company of stars from Europe’s major ballet

Roberto BalletNOwcompanies, is one half of an inventive program called BalletNow that is splitting a weekend of gala performances with Herman Cornejo and his Latin American all-stars at the Los Angeles Music Center. For an aggregation of dancers who have largely made their way in the world as classicists it was something of an unexpected turn that Mr. Bolle’s share of the program should veer so strongly away from standard classical big time ballet fare, and toward versions of European dance modernism.

Going even further, Mr Bolle seemed at his best in two recent works—“Passage” and “Prototype”—in which he shared the stage with extended filmed sequences of himself dancing. What could be better than one version of Mr. Bolle dancing, than two? But in both cases he steered well clear of self-infatuation to produce a heartfelt narrative of loss in “Passage” ( it included black and white sequences of Bolle running through an empty warehouse as well as erotic footage dancing with Polina Semionova), and wry, self-deprecating humor in “Prototype”, which gave us Bolle as a kind of dance cyborg eventually tempered by more human instrincts. Both works showed a keen sense of integrating film and onstage dancing. What comes across is Bolle’s dedicated interest in making new, technically complex collaborative works that bring in designers, dancemakers, filmmakers, and contemporary composers invested in both electronic and concert idioms. It is BalletNow after all, and not BalletThen.

BalletnowThe other contemporary pieces on the program reflected both current and older modernism, the kinds made popular by Wayne McGregor and his extroverted hyper-ballet, as well as choreographic roads well-travelled by the NDT franchise. “Mono Lisa” danced by Maria Eichwald (now exclusively a freelance dancer) and Bolle had the feeling of a dance showdown. Liberally infused with hyper-physicality and athleticism, the partnering looks dangerous and at times uncomfortably brutal. Bolle and Eichwald make an interesting pair. She looks half his size on stage. Think of “Mono Lisa” as a kind of dance work out. At one point Bolle takes off his tee shirt before continuing with the nonstop action. It’s hard to say what the underlying idea here is. She submits readily to the extreme gender biased partnering. It may all be a cooperative venture, but he is clearly calling the shots. The choreography was by Itzik Galili who has worked with Batsheva, NDT, and the Dutch National National. “Borderlands” (McGregor), a pas de deux from a larger work for San Francisco Ballet, plumbed a similar vein. It was danced with requisite, flinging McGregor style by Maria Kotchetkova and Henry Sidford, both from San Francisco Ballet.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was Hans Van Manen’s “Trois Gnossiennes” (Eichwald and Marijn Rademaker) which put a cool, forward spin on music similarly used by Ashton for his iconic ”Monotones”. Killing it in the “out there in the wild blue yonder” category was Rademaker dancing for and by himself as a “locker”, cowboy-wannabe in “Affi”. Marco Goecke’s choreography for “Affi” is set to a suite of Johnny Cash tunes. The work had more atmosphere than substance.

Of the three classically inspired pas de deux on the program, Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino dug in deepest with their dramatically powerful, go for broke dancing in John Neumeier’s “The Lady of the Camellia’s”. Lacarra was exceptional with phenomenally detailed dancing that created a character of despairing, operatic proportions.

The BalletNow program is produced through the Music Center with Richard Kielar and Emanuela Bolle. They seem well on their way to kicking some of the cobwebs out of gala ballet as we know it. And that’s a good thing. The Sunday concert will split works from the European and Latin America programs.

(The reviewed program took place on July 10, 2015 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The lighting designs were by Brandon Stirling Baker. All the music was prerecorded. Sections of the Latin American program will include live, onstage music.)

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