Camp is an old-fashioned term, and so is tack. There was a little of the latter at Kennedy Center last night on the new program given by that endearingly old-fashioned troupe, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Though there was lots of the former, both in Alicia Alonso's version of the "Grand Pas de Quatre" and in her former brother-in-law Alberto Alonso's "Carmen," a dose of camp is just what might have helped the premiere piece, Canadian choreographer Brian MacDonald's "Prologue for a Tragedy."
"Prologue" is a pompous piece. It has no story, but by assigning the names of Othello, Iago, Desdemona et al. to leading dancers, MacDonald arouses expectations. Then he avoids satisfying them by claiming that he is merely showing Shakespeare's characters prior to what happens in the great play. Apart from costuming and type casting, though, he doesn't even provide a movement study of character.
The ballet is tacked together of odd elements. There is a bit of "Bayadere" in the corps' entrance, and a bit of the "Romeo and Juliet" pillow dance in their big ensemble.
The strong Andres Williams as Othello and Amparo Brito of the elegant placement as Desdemona, dance a coldly acrobatic adagio. Ramon Ortega's Iago does a convoluted solo - the one passage of motion characterization - and there is also a pallid paraphrase of Limon's "Moor's Pavane." Bach music was used, and Salvador Fernandez designed the gaudy costumes.
Light dancing and heavy humor characterized the "Pas de Quatre." There was also sentiment as each dancer evoked not just one of her predecessors, as indicated in the program, but two. Josefina Mendez's etched silhouette pausing in mid-motion caught the spirit of Taglioni, and of Alonso, too. Mirta Pla, with fresh attack and graceful line, was Cerrito and Diana Adams; Marta Garcia, as Grisi, had a bit of Melissa Hayden's spunk, and Maria Elena Llorente's Grahn looked like Janet Reed with her whimsy. Alonso herself, in "Carmen," was stronger than on opening night. But the ballet, which can be fun, dragged on this occasion.
The company's designs tend to the garish, and musical credits to the minimal. What were the Bach pieces used for the Othello ballet?