Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
In the second of the company's two nights at Wolf Trap, the Eliot Feld Ballet favored us with the first performance anywhere of Feld's latest opus - "Danzon Cubano," to a seven-minute Copland piece (1942) of that title, originally for two pianos, but played here in its orchestrated version.
This isn't "major" Feld; it's rather a slender work in every way. But it's quite engaging all the same, and it shows the choreographer still mining the vein of piquant pictorialism he's been into lately.
Feld has also been on a lengthy ethnic kick, of sorts, into which the category "Danzon Cubano" plainly falls. It's a bent that can be traced back to the troup's first year of existence in 1974, when Feld introduced his "Tzaddik" and "Sephardic Song." In these ballets, he did for East European and Mediterranean Jewry what he subsequently has done for Poland ("Mazurka"), the good old U.S.A. ("Variations on America"), Scotland and Ireland ("A Footstep of Air"), the American Southwest ("Santa Fe Saga), and most recently. Mexico ("La Vida," also to Copland, and also, like "Footstep" as well, on last night's program).
In a sense, Feld uses popular or folk dance motifs in his choreography the way Copland has used to folk tunes in his scores - not just as a springboard and reference point, but as accent and seasoning for his own dance language. Given his gift for telling dance imagery - the revealing posture, the witty shape - these nationally flavored ballets of Feld almost begin to resemble animated cartoons.
The result, in the case of both "Danzon Cubano" and "La Vida," is part affectionate tribute and part caricature. "Danzon Cubano" begins with the lone, still figure of Edmund LaFosse on stage, barefooted, barechested, a colorful scarf on his head, cutoff trousers on his legs. He snakes his torso into a series of curves, and slowly begins to move around the stage, his hips rotating, bumping, swiveling in provocatively Carribbean style.
He's joined by three females in bareback dresses and ruffled, cutaway skirts who enframe him from behind. As the rhythms become bouncier, the women roll their arms, buckle forward and jut out their derrieres. At one point, LaFosse briefly partners one of the women; the piece ends in a travel poster tableau, the feminine trio surrounding LaFosse, who's projecting one arm skyward. Essence of Cuba, in 20 dance snapshots.
"La Vida," premiered in New York earlier this year, is set to Copland's "El Salon Mexico," and it's a more puissant work somehow, both in its score and its dance imagery. The basic choreographic premise, however, is very much the same.