In addition to its two Balanchine pieces – “La Source” and “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux” – the dance company that calls Pacific Beach home premiered Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun” and Peter Martins’ “Hallelujah Junction.” Vacillating between the classical and the electric, dancers graced and electrified the stage.
Celebrating 24 years under the direction of the Wistrich husband and wife team, former Boston Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet dancers, the world-class professional ballet company, a non-profit organization committed to “furthering the ballet art form,” featured Erica Alvarado, Sean Rollofson, Kaylee Skelton, Ariana Gonzalez, Geoff Gonzalez, and Ryosuke Ogura in principal roles.
As the dancers dazzled, John Nettles conducted the City Ballet Orchestra for “La Source,” “Pas de Deux” and “Afternoon of a Faun.” “Hallelujah Junction” treated the audience to two New York City pianists Cameron Grant and Susan Walters as the backdrop to jazzy choreography.
“We’re proud of our work,” said Steven Wistrich. “We’ve built an amazing repertoire of iconic ballets performed by dancers from all over the world based on our vision to create a world class ballet company for the city of San Diego. ‘Balanchine & Beyond’ remains a milestone for our company and a major dance event for the city of San Diego.”
“La Source” and “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux” featured the diminutive, yet gracefully exquisite, Alvarado. The tiny ballerina appeared weightless as she commanded the stage with an elegant presence. Rollofson accompanied Alvarado in “La Source” and Ogura proved himself as a tour-de-force as Alvarado’s partner in “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux.” Leaps abound for both male principles whose well-chiseled physiques added elements of strength and power to each performance. Solo girl Skelton, with legs as long as heaven, added a flawless performance to “La Source.”
Corps dancers for “La Source” also included Kelsey Bevington, Caitlyn Gallison, Karissa Myers, Kyla Myers, Jessie Leigh Olson, Natalie Test, Carly Topazio, Kendell Wood on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s matinee’s performance included Kate Arnson, Kylie Edwards, Aurora Frey, Kimberly Green, Isabella Meyers, Brook Ogle, Katie Spagnoletti and Karin Yamada as corps dancers.
Dancers – and husband and wife team – Ariana Gonzalez and Geoff Gonzalez told an interesting story in “Afternoon of a Faun.” Stage scenery and lighting, designed by Jean Rosenthal, entailed a ballet studio surrounded by ballet barres, wispy drapes and faux paus windows illuminating the suggestion of a gorgeous sunny day. The audience served as a mirror for each principle, reflecting the dancer’s movement and emotion. Gazing into the audience allowed spectators a peak into understanding how dancers learn to move their bodies and control their emotions based on their own reflections.
Ariana Gonzalez was also a principal in “Hallelujah Junction” partnered by Rollofson with Ogura as the Solo Boy. Adding a sense of modern to an afternoon of classical, “Hallelujah Junction” afforded each dancer a venue to display their athletic ability along with their ballet expertise. The piece, demanding in tempo and execution, exuded an exhilarating, and at times even flashy, series of sporty, yet nimble, ballet steps.
The eight-member corps – Caitlyn Gallison, Kimberly Green, Megan Jacobs, Jessie Leigh Olson, Katie Spagnoletti, Carly Topazio, and Karin Yamada along with Lucas Ataide, Geoff Gonzalez, Brian Heil, Derek Lauer and Denis Maciel – wove a dynamic force through each piano note.
Steven Wistrich described his dancers as professionals from the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico, Russia “who spend 26 weeks of the year in San Diego dancing for a living.”
Steven Wistrich was coached by George Balanchine – the founding artistic director of the New York City Ballet – early in his career. The City Ballet of San Diego is one of but a few companies to receive permission from The George Balanchine Trust to perform his ballets. “The Balanchine Trust grants permission only to ballet companies they judge as artistically competent to perform Balanchine’s masterworks,” said Wistrich. “George Balanchine, a true genius, is considered one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century. We’re honored to be one of the select companies in the world allowed to dance these ballets.”
Wistrich described the Spreckels theater as a “world-class historic theater and a wonderful venue” for a dance/ballet company. Eve Lawson staged “La Source” and “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux”; Rebecca Hirsch staged “Afternoon of a Faun” and Nilas Martins – the son of New York City Ballet artistic director Peter Martins – staged “Hallelujah Junction.”
“‘Balanchine & Beyond’ was an amazing program,” concluded Wistrich. “We continue to encourage all San Diegans to enjoy the beauty of the City Ballet of San Diego. Everyone will enjoy dances choreographed by legends along with fabulous lighting, scenery, costumes and of course, John Nettles and the incredible City Ballet Orchestra.”