Without a doubt, the name most often associated with the Joffrey Ballet is not that of a dancer or even company director Robert Joffrey, but of principal resident choreographer -- Gerald Arpino. His ballets hae earned wuch extreme epitaphs as "terriffic" and "terrible." One could see why in the two Aripino pieces danced last night at the company's Wolf Trap opening.
Neither work seemed long or obsecure. The viewer's eyes had to move fast, with not a moment's pause to permit boredom. Arpino has a facility for well-made proportions.
In "Suite Saint-Saens" the dancers, dashing along crossing lines, toss off steps galore from the very first instant. That annoys some people. Its climax, and it disappoints those who think that getting there is a necessary part of the fun. Arpino's dance vocabulary here is busy rather than rich, and is musicality is perfunctory even for Saint-Seans,
In "l'Air d'Esprit," Arpino focuses on the essence of Russian romantic classicism. This duet is all lifts and linearity, virtuousity and showy grandeur. The image, though, is so sharp that it borders on caricature and is hardly the intendd tribute to the legendry Olga Spessivtzeva.
Arpino's eccentricities give dancers the sort of vehicle that is technically difficult but easy to milk. Patricia Miller made the most of her high, sharp extensions supported by Greg Huffman in the Saint-Saens, while Glenn Dufford and Mark Goldweber toured through the competitive male duet with amazing speed. Starr Danias enjoyed mimicking the no-nonsense strength of Spessivtzeva's "Giselle" that has been preserved (and perhaps distorted) in an old film.
Completing the program were two of the Joffrey Ballet's collectors' items -- Jose Limon's "Moor's Tavame" and Jerome Robbins' "N.Y. Export: Op. Jazz". The rendering of the Limon was melodramatic but the performance of the Robbins captured the semi-abstract quality of this ballet about an asocial society of teen-agers.
Joffrey Ballet announced that Minjinsky's "afternoon Of a Faun" will, after all, be performed on its Diaghilev program tonight and tomorrow afternoon, but in practice clothes on a bare stage without the famous Bakst scenery and costumes. Whether the humidity at Wolf Trap or ownership rights for the production were the cause of withdrawing the scenery and costumes remains unclear.