One incisive stroke can change a whole scene. It happened in Eliot Feld's pantomime ballet "Theater" at the Kennedy Center last night. Lightning struck amid a bundle of good ideas and they ignited.
The sad-sack hero of pantomimes, Pierrot, is always taunted by the lady he loves and the dashing young man she favors. Feld invented a new torture for the poor fool. The ball of fortune with which the characters have played is slipped up Pierrot's back and looks like a hump under his blouse. On the scene arrives humpbacked Harlequin. He is transfixed. Here at last is another body with a protrusion like his own. Harlequin advances on Pierrot. He wants to touch him, dance with him and reaches out to pet the hump, then he grasps it firmly for the partnering. In the world of "Theater" where all is masks, money and meanness, this is the cruelest, saddest touch. Pierrot doesn't know how to say no.
New in the role of Pierrot was GianFranco Paoluzi. He has a Bejart dancer's power to hold his breath, stare straight ahead and hypnotize the audience. Instinctively he seemed to sense that Pierrot's hopelessness is not a matter of situation or moment but an inheritance centuries old. Paoluzi moves decisively and can make an amazing amalgam of mime and bravura, shriveling his upper body as if succumbing to the hunched appearance while stretching the legs for a very long leap.
It was men's night also in the other pieces on the Feld Ballet's program. Edmund LaFosse was the go-go boy in "Danzon Cubano," Patrick Cea the blanketed Mexican in "La Vida" and Jeff Satinoff had the liveliest dancing in the pseudo-Elizabethan "The Consort."