Dallas — Into a serene glen, intruders invade the domain of maidens with flowing hair and long silky dresses. Who are these intruders? They are the worldly, hip generation, identified by their manner, their tiny slips and pulled back hair.
And so unfolds Paul Mejia’s romantic Album for the Young, the first of five ballets performed by Mejia Ballet International June 20 at the Dallas City Performance Hall.
Set to Lowell Liebermann’s music of the same title, the original, 2006 version of Album for the Young featured Mr. Liebermann on piano on one side, and 11 children of different ages lined up along the front of the stage, bodies barely visible in Tony Tucci’s soft, blue lights. There they sit, enraptured by the music, some of them gradually falling asleep in dreams.
Even without the small children framing the ballet, the dreamy mood persisted with a slight shift that put the emphasis on the clash between innocence and knowledge. As in the original, however, a pianist (William Hobbs) sits on one side of the stage, and a nymph-like figure, long hair flowing, pauses to take in the music, then waves for others to join her. They move with freedom, coming and going. Suddenly, the intruders appear, dancing alone at first. Eventually, the young men, clad in Byronesque blousy shirts and white tights, intermingle with the nymphs, tender and attentive.
The movement was lithe and free, with some impressive windmilling turns by the men. What made the dance so suited to the theme was the ages of the dancers: 14 to 16 for the girls, 17 to 19 for the young men.
In Iain Archer’s new Masquerade Variations, set to Aram Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite, nine dancers in party dress whirl and dip to the intoxicating music of the waltz. Toward the end, dancers disappear and violinist Eric Grossman whipped the mood to an impassioned peak.
Mejia’s Serenade in A and For Five drew on Stravinsky’s irregular meters and serial patterns, all of it cool and detached. In Serenade in A five girls in white leotards and flesh-colored tights move in close, but staggered formation, whether it is just lifting an arm or making a deep plié. They bend and stretch, creating images of letters of the alphabet, very separate in their own orbit. But they come together, holding hands and interweaving.
For Five hints at Balanchine’s Agon with its abrupt starts and stops and angular, staccato shapes. This ballet is the raison d’être for the program: it gives Paul Mejia’s 17-year old son Roman Mejia the chance to show his star potential. Already an apprentice member of New York City Ballet (and like the other three young men in the program, a student of the School of American Ballet), Roman is not only a technical whiz with tremendously easy leaps and multiple turns, but offers just the right amount of tension to an otherwise academic work.
The program ended on Mejia’s ebullient Sarasate, set to the music of Spaniard Pablo de Serasate. One set of dancers after the other emerges, women in tutus of brilliant hues of red, yellow or lime green and men in toreador jackets, performing solos, duets and trios. They change partners, flirt, blow kisses, and in general, have the time of their lives.