The Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico made its Washington debut at Lisner Auditorium Friday with a splash of Caribbean color, rhythm and dancing alternately as hot as a full-blown hibiscus or cool as the Caribbean surf.
The 18-member company displayed with bravura the clean classical emphasis of artistic director Lolita San Miguel, who danced with the Joffrey and Metropolitan Opera ballets before founding Ballet Concierto. Acclaimed as the island's leading ballet company, the troupe draws its repertoire from both classics and works by contemporary Latino choreographers. The latter formed Friday's bill.
The dancers' commitment and artful execution, while exceedingly gratifying, could, however, scarcely overcome the choreographic deficits that dogged the program. "La Casa de Bernarda Alba," created by Julio Lopez, opened the evening on a somber note, inspired by the final play of Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca. It explored the tensions festering in a house of five daughters who are fighting for one man's love over their mother's objections. Maria Teresa Robles and Roberto Lopez poignantly danced a tensely sensuous duet, yet for the most part the piece relied on repetitive gestures for dramatic effect.
Though ably performed by the dancers in dappled unitards, "Gateway to El Yunque," a catalogue of "modern ballet" high-flung extensions and floor work created by company member Jesus Miranda, exhibited no clear tie to the rain forest named in the title. More successful was Jose Pares' "Dos Tangos," interesting musically with Astor Piazzolla's compositions. Rebeca Canchani danced a sultry solo; Patricia Vassos and Edwin Silfa sizzled in a duet with lots of salsa -- in a repeated move, as she crested a leap he clamped her to his body with to-die-for gallantry.
The performance closed with a cascade of cuteness -- "Munecos (Dolls)", sweetly danced by Robles and Carlos Cabrera, and the showy "Tributo," a medley of Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez's big-band numbers by Maria Julia Landa.