Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Ballet Nacional de Cuba may have a few more surprises in store for us next week at the Kennedy Center, but none could be quite as startling as Sunday's American premiere of "Genesis." Whoever would have dreamed of Alicia Alonso, exemplar of ballet classicism, as an avant-garde choreographer? Yet here she was, out-Tetleying Glen Tetley, with the most off-the-wall idea for a ballet one can readily recall.
"Genesis," with an electronic-expressionist score by Luigi Nono, is a "conceptual" ballet in more ways than one, being a dance exposition of gestation and birth at the microbiological level - the dancers, as "cells," depict ovulation, fertilization and the growth of the fetus.
Yes, it's a naive, simplistic and sometimes silly ballet but withal an often inventive and shapely one, definitely the work of someone for whom expressive movement is a native language.
Alonso had promised us a sampling of Cuban balletic humor, and kept her word with two tidbits by Alberto Mendez Sunday - "Dolls," a novelty number about a rag doll and a toy soldier, and "Paso a Tres," a genuinely funny, because genuinely perceptive, spoof on the anatomical anomalies of ballet. The audience went wild for both.
Alonso was splendid in the opening "Grand Pas de Quatre." But the best was the final "Ad Libitum," a modern Latin counterpart of the former, in which Alonso was partnered by the incredibly magnetic Spanish dancer Antonio Gades and the two of them galvanized the air with their unique and complementary presences.