Fort Worth — In one great rush, dancers sweep through the stage in a flurry of motion, setting into action what will turn out to be 16 minutes of sheer brilliance. George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, performed Friday night at Bass Performance Hall, was one heady dose of adrenaline from start to finish.
Texas Ballet Theater hedged no bets with this ballet, nor did it with Jerome Robbins’s comic The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody) and Harald Lander’s flashy Études.
And then, glory be, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra was back to provide that other dose of excitement.
The second the curtain opens for Allegro Brillante and the first note of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 75 sounded, you know you are in for a treat. In the center of the stage, four couples clad in pale blue change directions with dizzying speed, never for a moment blurring the clarity of their spacing. The heady speed, the clarity and the constantly changing patterns make for an exuberant ballet, and the dancers are up to the challenge. Like Dewdrop in the Waltz of the Flowers, Leticia Oliveira darts in and out of the others’ ranks. Her chiffon dress is identical to the other women’s except that it is pale pink. The skirts flutter in the breeze.
When the music becomes most dynamic, Ms. Oliveira responds with simple, calculated quarter turns on pointe – a test of control if ever there was one. At other times, she covers space with a rapid chain of turns or connects with Andre Silva in split-second timing, ready to fly off again.
A truly comic ballet is a rarity, and The Concert surely must rank as one of the best. The conceit is simple: concertgoers get lost in the music, dreaming up all sorts of stories. It begins with Shields-Collins Bray striding in from the wings, sitting down at the piano, and striking the first note of 12 pieces of Frédéric Chopin’s preludes, waltzes and mazurkas. His “audience”—a zany assortment of characters that includes a dreamy ballerina, two gossiping, twittering ninnies, an angry student, a bored husband whose cigar never leaves his lips, an indignant wife and a timid man—gradually assembles, carrying their own folding chairs. Naturally, an usher has to reshuffle the seats, leaving the ballerina (Carolyn Judson), who has draped her upper body over the piano, chairless. She stays there for a long time, butt sticking out over a nonexistent chair before waking in a daze.
Mayhem; nonsense; a delicious hash of Les Sylphides where six dancers keep botching their steps; and a dreamy umbrella scene cascade forth. The ending is a hoot: the bored husband (Carl Coomer) appears as a butterfly complete with antennae, wings, striped socks and the ubiquitous cigar. When he tries to mate with the ballerina, he hides her under his wings as two rivals home on in. Suddenly the stage is filled with butterflies and the pianist—pushed to the limits—abandons his piano, grabs a butterfly net and desperately bats away.
Études starts off with the simplest of scenes: a dancer in a white tutu stands in a pool of light in fifth position, moves into first position, and brings her feet into fourth, pliés, and dashes off. She outlines the action to follow: the exacting steps that dancers perform in sequence in every ballet class, in every studio, every day, year in year out. Of course, the choreographer takes liberties in the sequence, but we watch with rapt attention as groups of three or four line up on an invisible barre (the light illuminates only their perfect legs) and execute battement tendu, frappé and rond de jambe in perfect harmony.
But this ballet is about the full range of ballet technique, and soon light fills the stage, the barres disappear, and the dancers embark on a string of complicated combinations, working up to an explosive display of leaps and turns that culminates with all 39 dancers on stage.
From beginning to end the corps of 36 dancers—12 women in black tutus, 12 in white and twelve men – maintain the headlong surge of Carl Czerny’s music and the choreographer’s demand for dazzling exactitude.
At the center are principal dancers Ms. Oliveira, Mr. Silva and Jiyan Dai. Ms. Oliveira is remarkable for her precision and charm, and whirls like a comet with turns that must break all records in speed. Mr. Silva is no slouch either, firing off multiple turns with ease. Mr. Jiyan flies through space with exceptional buoyancy as if borne by the air.
» 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 Magazine.