Starting its eighteenth season at Walnut Creek’s Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, Diablo Ballet danced three performances of three ballets, two new to the repertoire, one a world premiere. Seeing the November 19 matinee, I had mixed reactions to Le Spectre de la Rose, Tears From Above and Fluctuating Hemlines.
Val Caniparoli’s premiere was a pas de quatre for Tears from Above, danced to music for two cellos by Elena Kats-Chernin, a composer originally from deep in central Asia but now residing in Australia. As one might expect the hints of melancholy were strong, reflecting vast stretches of land with little deviation of lifestyle. Danced by Mayo Sugano and new comers Hiromi Yamazaki, Derek Sakakura and Robert Dekkers, I want to see the piece a second time before venturing my response.
Of Spectre de la Rose, the reaction was easier, thanks to the music’s familiarity and the voluminous prose written regarding Fokine’s ballet and its phenomenal role for Vaslav Nijinsky.
The period difference from nineteenth to early twenty-first centuries could scarcely be stronger in this tale of love’s awakening dream as conceived by Dominic Walsh. Domenico Luciano as Spectre had created the role in this adaption. A handsomely-sculpted dancer, Luciano was garbed in a cluster of rust- colored petals on his left chest over flesh-hued body suit and something obscuring his dark hair. Rosalyn Ramirez, first seen in Diablo’s spring program, was dressed in a simple white sheath-like tunic with slits up the side.
Katy Heilein’s solution for the appearance of the Spectre was hanging white draperies for the Spectre’s appearing and vanishing. Both dancers, skilled performers, had to dance at times when the Spectre manipulated the Girl’s head or moved her abruptly in ways a young woman’s first romance isn’t likely to be dreamed, unless prone to some degree of masochism. It was a bit as if the Spectre was playing Lermontov in The Red Shoes. I found myself wincing, but the Spectre vanished in a whoosh of white curtain and I was relieved it was over.
Septime Weber’s “Fluctuating Hemlines” was revived from its fall, 2001 Diablo Ballet premiere, but was choreographed originally in 1995 for the American Repertory Ballet. Weber, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, used exaggerated wigs and nearly Barbie Doll costumes for the four women and de rigeur jacket, ties, trousers and shirts for the men. Weber utilized pantomime
to indicate the four girls were manifestations of prissiness. The men were given gestures of compulsive awareness of time, checking their watches, adjusting ties, inspecting trousers for creases in the wrong places.
The coming together of male and female registered signals of “no-no,” and “you mustn’t” in liberal dosages. That is, until male and female attires were shed, trunks and body suits revealed and a good time was had by all; although it seems the gestural traces of former behavior kept cropping up. The idea was clever, but there’s so much one can do before the lack of characterization begins to be felt. One then desires more specificity, which Fluctuating Hemline sacrificed in the interest of generalities. The cast comprised all the previously mentioned dancers in addition to Edward Stegge. David Fonnegra and Erika Johnson.
Diablo Ballet’s early spring season, March 2-3 will be danced at Shadelands Arts Center, Walnut Creek with an additional two performances March 30-31 at Foster City’s Hillbarn Theater.
May 4 and 5 will again see the company finish the season with three performances at Shadelands.