Stage: Wednesday, June 20, 2002
Prima Donnas

Ballet Arlington bringshigh-level dancers to town once again.


Since its birth four years ago, Ballet Arlington has focused on first-class dancers. While Fort Worth Dallas Ballet offers sumptuous, full-evening classics, and Bruce Wood Dance Company the best in new choreography, Ballet Arlington showcases extraordinary dancers from Russia, San Francisco, and most parts in between, who ply their art in dazzling style.

For two performances at Bass Performance Hall Friday and Saturday instead of the usual single season-ending show, the company lists a bevy of performers who continue that tradition. Cyril Pierre and Lucia Lacarra, the husband-and-wife team from San Francisco Ballet who blew everyone away with their sublime adagio work in previous performances here and in Dallas, return with this show as regular members of the company. They dance the lead couple in Bugaku, George Balanchine’s salute to Japanese culture which premiered in New York in 1963. (She of the impossibly flexible back — she can touch the back of her head to her calf while supported at the waist by her partner — will be reined in here by Balanchine’s choreography, which doesn’t require special effects.) Paul Mejia, new co-artistic director of the company and former artistic director of FWDB, will stage the ballet.

“I think the ballet was first danced by Allegra Kent and Edward Villella,” Mejia said. “At least that’s who I associate with early performances I danced when I was with New York City Ballet. In any case, I want to recapture Allegra’s exquisite femininity and smooth out some of the exaggerations that have slipped in over the years. It’s really a gorgeous work.” Set to an astringent modern score by Toshiro Bayusumi and using five couples, the ballet is Balanchine’s only foray into Far Eastern traditions. Costumes and the set have been acquired through the San Francisco Ballet.

Mariana Ryzhkina, principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, also makes a guest appearance, dancing the Le Corsaire pas de deux with Alexander Vetrov, former principal and decorated Bolshoi dancer, who is now the other artistic co-director of the company. Immediately following the Fort Worth performances, he returns to Moscow to appear in Carmen Suite, which was presented earlier in Arlington and will be seen in Fort Worth next season.

Mariana Goshko, a soloist with the Moscow Classical Ballet who danced a stylish Sugar Plum Fairy for the company last Christmas, will be partnered by Mindaugas Bauzys, former principal with the Lithuanian National Ballet, in Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique, staged by Vetrov. Rounding out the divertissements will be Russian soloists Maria Kudyakova and Andre Prikhodko dancing the Bournonville Flower Festival In Genzano pas de deux.

The other major work on the program will be another ballet choreographed by Mejia to the music of Broadway composer Richard Adler, most famous for the shows Damn Yankees and Pajama Game. Mejia created his Eight by Adler in 1984 for the Chicago Ballet, but this new piece, Notes On My Life, is a medley of 20 Adler tunes specially put together by the composer for the Arlington Ballet and orchestrated by Dick Lieb.

“It isn’t a straight medley of complete songs,” Mejia said, “but excerpts from 20 familiar and some not-so-well-known tunes that run together and form a whole. I’ve put the thread of a story through the piece to hold it together, a sort of ‘Rags-to-Riches’ theme that embraces a romantic tug-of-war between two men and a woman.” Mejia has staged a number of ballets for Ballet Arlington, but this is his first original work for the company. The Texas Chamber Orchestra will accompany under the baton of guest conductor John Rives-Jones.

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