Fort Worth — Amidst the smoldering Texas heat, faithful patrons of Ballet Concerto fluttered about The Heart of The Ranch at Clearfork in anticipation of the upcoming annual Summer Dance Concert. Attending the Thursday evening Gala performance, I arrived to a scene of brightly colored centerpieces, tables of auction items, and food & beverage carts. Like previous Summer Dance Concerts, the setting was the same—an outdoor stage surrounded by vendors, reserved tables for viewing, and bountiful open space for additional sitting/standing and running of children. Marketed as an evening “Celebrating Our Spanish Heritage,” the performance consisted of three main works prefaced by a Spanish themed pre-show.
Choreographed by Cade Corder, the pre-show featured four traditional Hispanic dances: Cha-cha, Samba, Rhumba, and Paso Doble. While Corder and Jordyn Waldo stepped and spun with joyful energy, the fragmented segments of each style left me feeling unfulfilled. It seemed a truncated way of serving the overall theme of “Spanish Heritage.”
Departing from the Spanish motifs, Ruben Gerding’s classical number Haydn String Quartet in D minor officially opened the night. Set to all four movements of Haydn’s iconic score, dancers in pastel blues, greens, and pinks twirled and leaped with grace and ease. As an audience member, it was difficult to reconcile such a classical piece with the casual, outdoor setting. Although the 20-minute work became monotonous towards the end, the highlight of the piece occurred in the second movement as Marlen Alimanov and Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi began an impressive duet. The choreography relied heavily on the duet’s ability to emit strength, power, and control in their jumps and tours. Eventually joined by Lea Zablocki and Whitney Hart, they continued to outshine their partners.
Another purpose of the night was to honor choreographer Luis Montero’s 30-year mark with Ballet Concerto. Artistic Director Margo Dean recognized his accomplishments at the commencement of the show with a plaque. His interpretation of Carmen filled the next portion of the concert.
Led by Emily Dixon Alba as Carmen and Shea Johnson as Don Jose, the work managed to engage and entertain through the flamboyant energy of the cast, comedic elements, and pristine technique. Electric from the start, the Village Women clothed in bold, colorful skirts and shawls swirled, clapped, and stomped buoyantly. Joined by a group of rigid soldiers and the suave Johnson, the stage came alive with playful partnering. Emily Dixon Alba’s stunning representation of the feisty, flirtatious Carmen captivated viewers. Her ability to merge technically difficult extensions and turns with the fierceness and fluidity of her character was impressive. Torres-Hiyoshi perfectly captured his role as the Male Gypsy with his machismo demeanor. In his duet with Carmen, he ferociously attacked each step, jump, and flick of his wrist as Emily Dixon Alba melted into her partner with juicy dips and devious looks.
Closing the show, In Search of Duende, choreographed by Elise Lavallee, portrayed ballet in a more contemporary light. Dancers in floor-length, dark skirts and black, long sleeve tops slid along the floor in sultry lines and spurts of sharp gestures to accent the rises and falls of the Spanish music. Undulations of the spine followed by forceful stops and strikes carried dancers from one movement to the next. Gracious applause welcomed Luis Montero to the stage in De Plata as he displayed his quick footwork and purposeful steps. After a delightful solo, the rest of the cast returned with intense stomps and swirls mirroring the crescendo of the guitar accompaniment.
A mediocre start was redeemed by the more lively choreography of Luis Montero and the standout performances of Shea Johnson, Emily Dixon Alba, and Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi. Though somewhat disjointed in genre, the evening proved the technical abilities and professionalism of Ballet Concerto.