Israel Ballet – Triple Bill

"Gurrelieder", Choreography: Berta Yampolsky, Photographer: Emanuel Ogdan

Mainstage Theater at Center for the Arts
University of Buffalo
Buffalo, NY
February 23, 2010

By Steve Sucato

It had been a quarter-century since Tel Aviv-based Israel Ballet toured the United States. Tuesday night in UB’s Center for the Arts, the company showed why that absence was entirely too long.

The evening began with Yampolsky’s abstract ballet “Xta,” set to African-influenced percussion music.

A corps of 10 female dancers in pointe shoes settled into a chorus line of quick, sharp, neoclassical ballet movements that had the dancers — arms hanging at their sides—plucking the stage floor with darting leg and foot movements.

Yampolsky’s choreography for the work had a unique unpredictability to it in which was sprinkled unusual movement accents that were highly engaging.

Highlighting “X-ta” were a lovely pas de deux from dancers Victoria Oknoneva and Alexander Utkin and a rapid-fire footwork solo by dancer Elena Rosenberg.

Inspired by a little-known Danish folktale that tells the story of King Waldemar and the death of his mistress, Tove Lille (Little Tove), Yampolsky’s “Gurrelieder” set to a cantata by composer Arnold Schoenberg came off like a neoclassical version of the graveyard scenes from the ballet classic “Giselle.”

Mournful and ghostlike dancers slid in line across the stage, creating an air of mystery and ethereal beauty.

Yampolsky’s choreography, keeping with her unique neoclassical style, felt at times a bit lightweight in “Gurrelieder,” compared with Schoenberg’s epic score. The dancers moved through simple-looking, angular formations and sedate partnering steps.

The work hit its stride, though, later in a series of wonderfully crafted pas de deux that not only showed off several of the company’s technically adroit dancers, but showed a softer side to Yampolsky’s choreography that was poetic, graceful and utterly delightful to watch.

Clean and well rehearsed, almost to a fault, Israel Ballet’s dancers could have benefited from a little more fireworks in Yampolsky’s choreography that appeared too safe at times, stifling some of the men’s jumps and toning down the partnering difficulty.

Closing out Triple Bill was Yampolsky’s “Ni-Na,” set to a piano score by composer Camille Saint-Saens. The “Balanchineesque” abstract ballet in three sections sparkled in barrage of neoclassical movement that cascaded like the twinkling runs of the piano keys in Saint-Saens music. The solidly choreographed and danced “Ni-Na” proved a fitting end to a most satisfying program.

This review originally appeared in The Buffalo News on February 23, 2010

Copyright Steve Sucato

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