Review: Spring Repertoire | Mejia Ballet International | Texas Hall

Return of the King

Paul Mejia, and some noteworthy dancers, make a triumphant return with an exquisite Spring Repertoire from Mejia Ballet International at the University of Texas at Arlington.

published Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Photo: Marty Sohl
Brahms Waltzes from Mejia Ballet International

Arlington — Ballet companies fold; new ones pop up to replace them. Such was the case Saturday night at Texas Hall on the University of Texas at Arlington campus, the old stomping grounds for the former Metropolitan Classical Ballet. In its wake, Mejia Ballet International picked up some of what had been lost from the previous company: some of the same dancers, a bit of the repertory, the commitment to have at least some live music, and, most critically, former co-artistic director Paul Mejia at the helm.

Besides some great dancing, the program showed Mr. Mejia’s versatility, with all four works his creation.

Brahms Waltzes opened with pianist José Antonio Cubela taking his place at the far side of the stage. Andrey Prikhodko and a bevy of dancers in filmy, fluttering pale blue dresses acknowledged Mr. Cubela with a slight bow. The group forms a pretty tableau, bourrées around Mr. Prikhodko, and at one point spreads out as they hold hands paper-doll fashion. The many pas de deux that follow (Sarah Marr and Shea Johnson, Yulia Ilina and Eugene Barnes, Olga Pavlova and Yevgeni Anfinogenov, Marina Goshko and Mr. Prikhodko, and Yuki Takahashi and Roman Mejia) vary from lively to luxuriously slow. The pas de deux fairly drip of romance: elongated lifts, long dips to the floor, and sudden dashes away from a lover’s grasp.

Photo: Marty Sohl
For Five from Mejia Ballet International

Making an impressive debut in Waltzes was 15-year-old Roman Mejia. Metaphorically, he came out of the womb dancing, not a surprise considering his mother Maria Terezia Balogh was the star at Fort Worth Dallas Ballet and Mr. Mejia danced with New York City Ballet. Other than a couple of off-balance turns, Roman could do anything, and do it with an artistry rare for someone so young.

His gift showed to great advantage in For Five, which also featured pianist Mr. Cubela. A taxing solo, For Five had an austere simplicity in perfect harmony with Stravinsky’s score “The Five Fingers.” There is nothing flamboyant about it if you don’t count giant leaps and multiple tours en l’airs, relying instead on hand gestures, simple walks, reverse-direction turns, hops and jumps with legs beating in-and-out. There is an arsenal of unusual movements for each of the eight sections, each executed with solemnity and ease.

While all the soloists in Brahms Waltzes danced with airy grace, it was the sublime Olga Pavlova—partnered by her husband Mr. Anfinogenov—who reminded us of what we lost when she left Metropolitan Classical Ballet in 2009. What makes her so remarkable is not her command of technique, which is perfection, but that she puts her soul into every work. She is as subtle and unhurried as drifting clouds, every inch of her body expressive from her relaxed wrists to her beautifully arched feet. You simply can’t keep your eyes off her.

Michele Gifford and Mr. Johnson did not seem fazed by overly amped music in Sylvia Pas de Deux, but plunged into the dance with gusto. Wearing a tiny lavender dress, Ms. Gifford whips out some impressive piqué turns and daring balances while Mr. Johnson covers space with soaring leaps.

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture required imaginative interpretation in order to distill the story into 20-something-minutes of ballet. It opens with Romeo’s death, the music ominous. Twenty-five figures in black form a platform in the crypt, while Tybalt (Mr. Prikhodko) looms high above. (The figures both represent a Greek chorus and the warring clans of Capulets and Montagues, forming barriers and escape routes.)  After Juliet awakens and discovers Romeo’s body, the scene changes as the music shifts tone and suddenly the two lovers are alive.

The music has its own dramatic impact, changing from foreboding to agitated to romantic, and Ms. Pavlova and Mr. Anfinogenov do every part full justice. (Unfortunately they had to deal with a muddy recording.) They stand still with awe when first discovering each other, run desperately through a gauntlet of warring clans and embark in arching, flowing lifts. Juliet seems at times to float, and Romeo expresses his budding love by great leaps.

The two are a wonderful couple, but it is primarily Ms. Pavlova with her willowy movement and expressive gestures that brings all the hope and pathos alive.

The ballet ends with a stunning epilogue:  the lovers’ bodies are lifted and placed together, heads touching. Billowing white silk parachutes waft over them, presaging their ascent to heaven.


» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance MagazineThanks For Reading

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Return of the King
Paul Mejia, and some noteworthy dancers, make a triumphant return with an exquisite Spring Repertoire from Mejia Ballet International at the University of Texas at Arlington.
by Margaret Putnam

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