Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
In the debut appearance of the Ballet International de Caracas at the National Theatre Tuesday night, the dancers pulled the choreography up to their own inspired and inspiring level. Wednesday night, in a second program, it was the dancers who were pulled, but this time unfortunately downward. When ballets fall below a certain esthetic standard, no amount of personal or technical charisma from the executants can help, and it is the performers who suffer, by being prevented from showing their best.
On the opening program. Ailey's "The River" and Vincente Nebrada's fetching "Our Waltzes" weren't without weaknesses, but were basically works of quality. But Nebrada's folkloric finale about moon rituals aimed for sensational effect and succeeded only in looking trite and empty.
All three pieces of Wednesday night's program could be characterized in the same way. Not even the superb Marielena Mencia - perhaps the troupe's single most gifted dancer - playing femme fatale to all 11 of company's men could rescue Nebrada's "Batucada Fantastica" from its own siliness. Set to a Latin pop score by Luciano Perrone, it's a string of unrelentingly frenetic solos featuring flailing limbs, rolling pelvises and rubberized torsos, ending with an orgy of disco cliches.
Nebrada's "Lento a Tempo e Appassionata," to piano music by Scriabin, is slightly more elevated in tone, and it was stunningly danced by Zhandra Rodriguez and Zane Wilson. At bottom, though, it's second-hand Bolshoi parlor tricks, "The Flames of Paris" becoming "Conflagrations of Caracas" and losing much in translation.
As for John Butler's "Carmina Burana," it only goes to prove that schlock isn't any the less schlocky for being swathed in pretentious layers of Weltschmerz and heated up every two minutes with mock copulation.
Why the troupe didn't bring us its Balanchine. Stevenson or Neumeier ballets remains a mystery. In any case, if the company wants to move forward artistically - and it would be a shame to ask such brillant dancers to aspire to anything less - it will have to add considerate substance and style to its current choreographic fare.