Above: Dancer Leigh Lijoi who performed a solo choreographed by Nicole Corea at the Latin Choreographers Festival 2012. Photo by Kokyat.
Sunday July 15, 2012 - I was only able to attend one of the two programmes at the Latin Choreographers Festival this year; after seeing the level of dancing and choreography at the Sunday 6:00 PM show, I regretted not having seen the other programme. This was one of the most satisfying evenings of dance in recent seasons, with one inspired performance following another in a smooth-flowing presentation enhanced by excellent lighting. The Festival's founder Ursula Verduzco has every reason to feel proud at this fifth anniversary celebration of the Festival; she and her production team - Benjamin Briones (kudos for his lighting designs) and Lucia Campoy - get high marks for there tireless dedication to dance and dancers.
The Festival this year honored the great Mexican dancer/choreographer Jose Limon; a filmed tribute to Limon opened the evening.
As anyone who has read my blog over the past few years knows, music is my obsession when it comes to dance. I'm happy to say that all the choreographers included on this programme went straight to the A-list in choosing their music: there is 'classic' music in every genre, and it's so worthwhile when choreographers take the time to find something really first class as a basis for their creations. It makes all the difference in the world.
The performance commenced with Bach, and you can't do any better than that. A beautiful pas de deux entitled Adrift was choreographed by Kristen McGrew (Nomad Contemporary Ballet) and danced with lyrical passion by Erin Ginn and Eric Vlach. Grounded in the clasic ballet vocabulary, Adrift looked fine and contemporary; Eric - a dancer we've seen often with Lydia Johnson Dance - now sports a handsome beard which brings out his bright blue eyes. He and the lovely Ms. Ginn moved thru this romantically styled but non-saccharine duet with a wonderfully windswept feel.
Two excellent and well-contrasted solos followed: Electra and Bitter Earth. In the first, set to a turbulent, edgy score by Krzystof Penderecki, Alejandro Chavez (Compania Ciudad Interior) has crafted a dark, prickly solo which seemed a reference to the ancient turmoil in the House of Atreus yet was thoroughly modern in movement. Claudia Izquierdo Perez, clad in a see-thruish tunic, gave a vivid and intense performance.
In an immaculate white gown, Asha Davis looked lushly beautiful and moved with sensual yet understated passion to the pondering voice of Dinah Washington in her classic This Bitter Earth. In this remarkable fusion of music, movement and mood, the dancer's personal charisma gave Ferdinand DeJesus's (Florida Dance Theatre) choreography the perfect interpretation. Ms. Davis is simply gorgeous.
Speaking of gorgeous creatures, three of them appeared on a stage strewn with red rose petals for the luxuriantly sexy pas de trois 2 Long 2 Love, a captivating vignette about romantic decisions. With its implied narrative hitting close to home, this trio created by Nejla Yatkin is set to music of Pedro Vargas and Philip Glass. A dancer with matinee idol looks and hypnotic smoothness of style, Ahmaud Culver is the man with two loves: Ms. Yatkin and Sevin Ceviker. Enhanced by excellent lighting, these three magnetic personalities wove thru their complex relationships with sinuous grace and elegant passion. Ms. Yatkin's choreography brilliantly blended romance and ritual. As the piece ended, I felt a great desire to see it again.
Young dancers from Arts Ballet Theater of Florida opened the second half of the evening with Fuga con Pajarillo, an on-pointe ensemble work (choreography: Vladimir Issaev) in which classic ballet style is fused with decorative embellishments a l'Espagnole. Kelvin Rabines, in the central role (with six women in red/orange frocks) is a good dancer and a handsome fellow but his white Nehru suit was not flattering and made him seem too night-clubbish. Tights, please.
Eloy Barragan has crafted a glorious solo Tree which was danced with rhapsodic expressiveness by Steven Gray. The dancer, clad in billowy pajama-pants, filled the space with free-flowing movement; every muscle of his godlike torso became a means of communication - even when his back was to us. The rapturous Max Richter score propelled the dancer thru this hymn to nature. A poetic interlude, so persuasively danced.
The lights came up slowly to find Leigh Lijoi seated against a column in a pensive state. The dancer begins to explore the space, her solitude underlined by the shimmering lyricism of Olafur Arnalds' score. Conversations of One, choreographed by Nicole Corea (the radiant Lar Lubovitch dancer), seemed a beautiful exploration of the state of being alone yet not being lonely. Ms. Lejoi's dancing was superb, and in fact she made this a perfect compliment to Mr. Gray's performance in the preceding Tree. As the light faded, Ms. Lijoi seemed to be sitting beside a silent stream, running her hands thru the water: a beautiful nymph, alone.
When Charley Brissey hauled off and slapped Felix Cruz across the face in Other Side of Someday, she launched him into a brutally physical solo; the staggering physicality of this passage (choreographed by Ms. Cruz) was amplfied by the seeming vulnerability of the boy, clad in his underwear. In a complete volte face, the mood swings and Mr. Cruz lip-syncs Somewhere Over the Rainbow: a bit too cloying for my tastes though he did a good job of it. But I'll be glad when gay men stop thinking about Ms. Garland.
Rounding out the programme, Ojala is a duet of Spanish romance with the tensions and ardor of that genre convincingly explored by dancers Katia Garza and Sebastian Serra. Ana Cueller choreographed the pas de deux to music of Silvio Rodriguez, bringing the 2012 Latin Choreographers Festival to a close on an appropriately passionate note.