Made in USA

Festival Ballet stages the American Masters
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  April 18, 2007
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SOARING: Alexander Akulov in Balanchine’s “Rubies.”

In choosing ballets from three American choreographers for the American Masters program (April 20 through 22), Mihailo Djuric, Festival Ballet Providence’s artistic director, has looked to two classics and one world premiere, to two recognized “masters” (George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins) and, in his words, “a future master” (Viktor Plotnikov).
 
Balanchine’s “Rubies” is from the three-part suite Jewels, first presented in 1967. Danced to Stravinsky’s Capriccio forPiano and Orchestra and staged for Festival Ballet by Balanchine ballet repetiteur Elyse Borne, “Rubies” is considered the jazziest of the Jewels, with its sassy moods and snappy moves. The principal couple will be Leticia Guerrero and Davide Vittorino, with 14 other dancers.
 
“It’s very exciting for the company to do these works,” Djuric noted, in a conversation last week at the studio. “ ‘Rubies’ is beautiful — very energetic, sexy, seductive, and very American.”
 
Robbins’s 2 & 3 Part Inventions is set to the “inventions” Bach created as teaching tools for his son, and it proceeds in 12 movements of trios and quartets drawn from eight dancers. Djuric is pleased that in the same year that he chose Inventions, it has also returned to the repertory of New York City Ballet, where it originated.
 
“As a dancer and ballet-lover, I always loved Robbins,” Djuric emphasized. “It’s much harder to get the rights for Robbins, but I’ve always thought he had something special, and I feel very connected to his work. When I saw the Inventions on tape, I appreciated his sense of humor, his characters, his musicality. It’s playful, smart, clever — I wish I had come to those ideas.”
 
Djuric’s confidence in Plotnikov’s own “mastery” stems from his previous pieces for Festival: the steamy Carmen, the magical and captivating The Witch’s Broom, and last year’s breathtaking Loof and Let Dime. The latter was abstract though very emotionally involving, and it was set to a score by Robert Wilson, who used the words of a young man who is autistic.
 
In the new piece, titled Coma — inspired by the image of suspended bodies in the ’78 film Coma — Plotnikov gets inside the minds and hearts of those who are keeping a vigil next to someone who is comatose, those who must make a decision to let go of someone they love, and those who are in the comas themselves. Its three movements are “Our Dreams,” “Reality,” and “Their Dreams,” and the ballet is set to the transfixing music of Arvo Pärt.
 
“The first movement has all the suffering and bad dreams of those outside the coma,” Plotnikov explained, after a rehearsal last week. “We think they can hear us and we try to comfort them; we spend time sitting with them. Plus our work makes us so busy, gives us such overload. These are the dreams that make us unhappy.”
 
Thus, the people in this first section express their anguish as they twist their bodies from side to side, their hands in fists. The second movement deals directly with two people coming to terms with their loss, as the woman visits her male companion for the last time.
 
Watching Plotnikov create this tragic pas de deux with Guerrero and Gleb Lyamenkoff was fascinating. The choreographer felt deeply and precisely what he wanted to convey in the intricate partnering of the two dancers: the female initially inconsolable, the male trying to comfort her. At one point Lyamenkoff holds her slumped across one knee while she circles her feet along the floor, wrung-out but resigned to what she must do.
 
The third section, in contrast, is, “peaceful, happy, like little kids,” stressed Plotnikov. Indeed, the eight dancers march doll-like, arms swinging along their sides; they surprise each other with playful swipes; they treat each other as jungle gyms, sliding over and under torsos and legs; two dancers even hang monkey-like, one from each shoulder of a third dancer. The dancers also strike poses that evoke the long comatose hours that stretch into infinity: pendulum arms, rocking bodies, ticking limbs.

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