Tour de Force is truly dancing with the stars
Author: Pam Diamond
Date: May 22, 2009
The air fairly hummed with expectation and excitement in a sold-out Segerstrom Hall Thursday evening as the Orange County Performing Arts Center, along with Ardani Artists, presented Tour de Force, a one-night, one-time only dance extravaganza that brought together a stellar cast of dance luminaries for an effervescent evening of unforgettable excellence.
Each piece segued seamlessly into the next with a program of classical and contemporary works that alternately inspired, soothed and uplifted spirits, the momentum ebbing and flowing with the dynamics of each piece then building to a grand crescendo when dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet, Mariinsky Theatre, Staatsballett Berlin, National Ballet of Canada, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg and Complexions Dance Company came together at evening's end to make their bows. But before that happened, the gala showcased a stunning array of mixed repertory works, 14 pieces in all, that celebrated classics old and new, including the World Premiere of Fallen Angel by Boris Eifman and several Center Premieres.
The curtain rose on a lovely, surprisingly understated duet excerpted from Eifman's two-act ballet "Who's Who" and set to music by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Unveiled, Maria Alexandrova and Alexei Turko immediately set the tone for the evening, drawing audiences in with their classicism and grace, two exquisitely molded statues come to life in fluid, tender moments of magic.
Precision, control and a regal elegance characterized Victor Gzovsky's "Grand Pas Classique," with Anastasia and Denis Matvienko setting the bar high with flawless execution and crystal-clear lines, but it was Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in the second act pas de deux from "Giselle," choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, that really upped the ante.
Bravos could be heard throughout the hall as Osipova hovered on pointe in a long yet lightly held balance and flowed through a series of intricate footwork, ephemeral as mist. As doomed village maiden turned forest spirit, Osipova brought an ethereal poignancy to her Giselle, floating through air in a long white tutu as though formless, her legs swaying like the clapper of a silenced bell as Albrecht lifts her one last time.
A frolicsome take on love followed with the center premiere of a yummy pas de deux from Christophe Maillot's "La Belle," set to music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. It began with a lip-locker of a kiss, which continued, and continued, and continued – well, you get the picture – as Bernice Coppieters and Chris Roelandt nuzzled and cavorted in an organic partnering that was a times playful and seductive. When he dips her, they come up for air, springing apart with fluttering hands and you-wowed-me eyes. It's a piece as soft and powerful as an exhale.
Aristocratic lyricism overlay sinews of steel in "For 4," an ensemble work by Christopher Wheeldon that received its World Premiere in 2006 for The Center's Kings of Dance. Denis Matvienko, Ivan Vasiliev, Leonid Sarafanov and Guillaume Côté faced off in a display of virtuosic athleticism, each bringing qualities of his own to this smooth, integrated quartet of performances.
Eifman's latest offering, a solo work created for Nikolay Tsiskaridze, is imbued with all the glorious drama one would expect from a dark angel's loss of face. In "Fallen Angel" an intense Tsiskaridze writhed and suffered, spun to stand spread-eagled, arms reaching skyward and fingers splayed. Whether he struggled with self or circumstance is uncertain, but his enshrouded figure at the end told a tale of hidden loss.
By contrast, Desmond Richardson purred with molten power in the center premiere of Dwight Rhoden's "Lament." Quick hand claps and snapped fingers punctuated this evocative and moving solo, each held pose calling to mind the tautly delineated musculature of a Rodin sculpture. The somewhat eerie music of Charles Veal, Jr. and Caroline Worthington added a mysterious quality that crept into the solo as his character grappled with forces unseen by the audience. Gold-medal worthy, Richardson delivered a performance that reached past muscle and will; it seemed to emanate from a well deep within.
Endowed with verve, style, beauty and a generous grace, the dancers of Tour de Force – whether mentioned here or not – put on an amazing show, all the while looking like they were having an awfully good time doing it. The night spent dancing with the stars seem to leave the audience equally energized, as if they had been invited to the most delightful private party and allowed to join in on the fun.
With nary a misstep the entire evening, I'd say that on a scale of 1 to 10, Tour de Force easily rates an 11. Now, where's that judges paddle?