As sure as summer brings heat, Ballet Concerto can be depended on to offer a classical ballet, a work with a Spanish flavor and a flashy finale in its annual Summer Dance Conert.
And so it was Thursday night at the outdoor Trinity Park Pavilion, where the breeze was so tepid it never rustled a lightweight skirt. Not that the opening work, Marius Petipa’s Paquita, offered a skirt to rustle: this was tutu country, with all the defining sharpness that only a tutu demands. For the most part, the six dancers in red tutus and the four in black—as well as soloists Michele Gifford and Shea Johnson and demi-soloist Justin Hogan—provided the crisp footwork and turned-out legs that this demanding ballet requires. Set to Ludwig Minkus’s jaunty score, the variation gave only a hint of the convoluted plot but instead concentrated on geometric patterns, quick shifts in body positions, tilted heads, and an overall atmosphere of delight.
As the plot has something to do with a girl kidnapped by gypsies somewhere in Spain, the dance had just a whiff of Spain with hands tucked at the waist with an elbow twisted forward while the other arm shot up high. That stance gave the dancers a proud and confident air.
Most of the dance zipped by at a brisk pace, which made two variations done in an almost languorous pace stand out. To the delicate sounds of a harpsichord, Cynthia Thorne skims across the stage pawing the ground delicately on pointe, shifting hips to exaggerate the movement of a horse pawing, and later hops on pointe, torso pitched forward and fingers tracing delicate curlicues, suggestive of the fairies in The Sleeping Beauty.
The music begins again slow and calm for one of Ms. Gifford’s variations. She begins moving on a diagonal path, stretching out one leg slowly as she hops on pointe. Every turn, hop, and suspended arabesque is executed with an excruciating slowness, like a toy doll on a wind up music box. Ms. Gifford is so steady that she seems to defy gravity.
The Spanish influence comes in full force in Luis Montero’s Andalusian Suite. Women in pumpkin-colored top and layered skirts of rust, cinnamon and copper fan out and swirl around the stage, replaced by men in brown tights, green sashes and white blowsy shirts. The men take bullfighter stances when they are not bounding like deer.
The mood shifts in the second section, an abbreviated version of Mr. Montero’s The House of Bernarda Alba, performed in its entirety several times in recent years. The story involves a tyrannical mother and her five daughters, where the youngest daughter has a clandestine relationship with the fiancé of the oldest daughter. It opens with Chelsea Robicheau in long black dress entering her family’s drawing room in a pensive and melancholy mood, drops her long black shawl on the chair, and gingerly opens her jewelry box. There she finds the long necklace her lover had given her years ago and holds it out as though it were a newborn child.
Time shifts to the past with Ms. Gifford—representing the youngest daughter—returning to the same drawing room, but now clad entirely in white. She and her lover (Mr. Johnson) embark on a series of swooning, rapturous lifts and turns, highlighted by her lover’s offering that same long necklace. She holds it to her bosom like a talisman.
At the end, the spell is broken and time shifts again: the woman who is his wife, with a little girl trailing, beckons him away.
While Mr. Johnson made a dashing cavalier in Paquita, he is even more dashing as the lover, with bold leaps and reckless energy.
Some rather tepid flamenco follows. The flamenco dancers, castanets in hand, are joined by the first group of dancers, and weave in and out to create a whirl of motion.
The ’40s big band music of Glenn Miller inspired artistic director and choreographer Margo Dean to create a dance that captured some of the heady wartime ebullience of soldiers and WACs. Called String of Pearls, only the zany dancing of Max Caro, Ruben Gerding, Justin Hogan and Brandon Nguyen, outfitted in army uniform and caps, gave the dance bite.
◊ 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.