Dance Review: TITAS’ Gala Performance, Always a Dance Year Highlight, Exceeds Expectations

The TITAS Gala, La Fete du Ballet has always been one of the greatest evenings of ballet in Dallas each year, and so it remained tonight after the endless flow of pre-performance speeches were tactfully stretched out allowing the tardy arrivals of well-groomed dance patrons to proceed to their seats in the Winspear. Eventually, the almost full house was settled and the curtain went up, heralding an evening of great classical and stunning contemporary ballet pas de deuxs.

Megan Fairchild and Daniel Ulbricht of the highly acclaimed New York City Ballet, performed Balanchine’s Tarantella  and Flower Festival in Genzano  by August Bournonville. Tarantella is set to the light, up-tempo music of Louis Gottschalk. Tonight, Ulbricht’s footwork was delightfully quick and precise, his dancing outstanding, particularly pirouettes and areas of complex footwork. This was not the case for Fairchild. Tarantella, if performed poorly, can seem like an uncomfortable marathon of petit allegro squeezed into every bar of music. Her performance had an undercurrent of excessive forcefulness coupled with a very rushed energy. Fairchild was noticeably better in Flower Festival, where the choreography was designed to be charming and pretty, qualities that are perfectly suited to her.

The second couple to perform, Sara Lane of NYC Ballet and Cervilo Amador of Cincinnati Ballet started with Ashton’s version of Romeo and Juliet, balcony scene. While not quite as daring, fluid or emotional as either Kenneth McMillan or John Cranko’s choreography, the dancers did their best to give it texture. Lane is a beautiful woman. She has perfect alignment, incredible extension, supple feet with high arches and a very elegant presence on stage. These qualities were perfectly matched by Cervilo in both Romeo and Juliet and La Corsaire. His variation included the airborne double-passe tour ending in a deep lunge, suspended balances in arabesque, fast multiple turns a la seconde and magnificent split leaps. Lane’s variation had a softness and femininity to it, with a welcome sense of warmth. Her pique turns and 32 fouettes to end the pas de deux were expertly done.

Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk make jaws drop with their technical precision, supple spines and limbs constantly moving in and out of unimaginable contorted body positions. The Annabelle Lopez Ochoa choreography (both pieces) performed tonight, One  and La Pluie, was like watching currents of electricity coursing through their bodies. Jacoby and Pronk have sinuous, long bodies that bombarded the stage with disorienting beauty and extreme technique. They both have hamstrings that seem to be made out of silly putty, allowing them to distort lines beyond expectation, yet they stay true to the foundations of classical ballet.

Momix, Moses Pendleton’s company, sent three dancers to perform at our TITAS gala: Nicole Loizides, Rebecca Rasmussen, and Steven Ezra Marshall. The most spectacular piece of the night had to be Millennium Skiva. Pendleton explores the range of movement possible when one is locked into boots and skis. Nicole Loizides and Steven Ezra Marshal, dressed in silver body suites, their skis tipped skyward, gracefully undulate and bend their torsos away from the skis. The audience gasped a few times at these dangerously unstable stilts, but that edge, the brink of falling, is exactly where Pendleton wants audiences to go. There is no doubt Skiva takes brute strength in the calves, core control and shear guts.

The second Pendleton Piece, TUU, performed by Rasmussen and Marshall had the same qualities of surprise and athleticism, but this time there were no props. TUU exemplifies control, gymnastic-dance and blind trust. Both dancers were excellent.

Two fortunate students from the dance cluster of Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts were given the opportunity to perform this evening: Dominique Harris and Mason Manning. The young Manning owned the stage. He has a well-toned body, clean technique, perfect lines, musicality and a very apparent love of dance. Charles Santos, Director of TITAS, was right; he seems poised to take the dance world by storm.

Photo: Megan Fairchild (via)

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