Saturday July 14, 2012 - Roberto Villanueva's BalaSole Dance Company presented the first of two performances of CONTRASTS, their Summer 2012 programme of solo danceworks, this evening at Ailey CitiGroup Theater. The roster of performers:
JENNY EFREMOVA, STEPHANIE FLACKMAN, SUNDAY SHANNON JACKSON,
RICARDO MATEO RIQUE-SANCHEZ, ALEXZANDRA SARMIENTO
YVANHOVA SYLVA, ROBERTO VILLANUEVA
Roberto Villanueva is the mastermind behind BalaSole, a unique enterprise which offers performance opportunites for dancers of various stylistic backgrounds. Invariably the works are self-choreographed; an audition process allows Roberto to single out the most promising aspirants. He then works with them on developing their material while also choreographing/collaborating with the dancers on the short ensemble pieces which open and close the programme.
This summer's programme again showed Roberto's skill in putting together a well-paced and smoothly-run evening of dance. As usual, female dancers outnumbered men and (also as usual) Roberto's own solo was a highlight of the performance. With a provocative touch of sensuality, Roberto danced Unwanted in a pool of light; his supple physicality belies his stated age (42) and he is a natural mover, thoroughly at ease onstage.
The opening and closing works, danced to Bach, were stylishly choreographed (a communal effort by the entire cast - but i wish Roberto had taken part). These dances, costumed in simple black and white, had Paul Taylor aura about them.
The women - strong dancers and personalities all - did not always choose music that underlined their choreographic work to its best advantage. Thus their solos were of the moment rather than creating a lingering after-image. Best was Jenny Efremova's The Long Way to Freedom, in part because it was about something (racism and prejudice) and in part because of Jenny's personal conviction as a dancer. Her use of spoken word as a setting was powerful in this instance.
The men on the other hand were formidable both as dancers and in the works they presented. Selecting top-flight music gave them an advantage even before they started to moved: Ricardo Mateo Rique-Sanchez chose Nina Simone's overwhelmingly understated (yes, a paradox) Strange Fruit for his solo Powerless while Musashi Alvarez turned to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring as the setting for his ritualistic Exalted Offering. Paragons of male beauty, both of these men moved with unfettered technical security and showed off choreography that was both demanding to dance and rewarding to watch. In these two solos, the ideal fusion of music, movement and technique put their performances into the memorable category.
BalaSole provides a valuable and meaningful setting for concert dance, and Roberto Villanueva's commitment and skill as an impresario - to say nothing of his superb dancing - are to be applauded. At the opening of the evening, a slideshow displayed images of all of the dancers who have participated in BalaSole's concerts over the last two years. It was great to see so many faces of people I know - people like Angelica Stiskin, Betheny Merola, Dai Omiya, Gierre Godley and Yuki Ishiguro - who I am continuing to follow in their dance careers.