Dance — 17 November 2014

 by

Kelly Acheson

Photos by Patricio Melo

From November 17th through the 21st, the Santiago Ballet will perform John Cranko’s The Lady and the Fool and Roland Petit’s The Young Man and Death at Santiago’s Municipal Theater.  This ambitious performance, consisting of two very different ballets separated by an intermission, highlights the versatility and scope of the Santiago Ballet.

The Lady and the Fool, one of choreographer John Cranko’s lesser-known early works, is a narrative, comic ballet.  Cranko brought to life such iconic ballets as Beauty and the Beast, The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet; his The Lady and the Fool shares many elements with his other works, particularly Beauty and the Beast, as both ballets recount love stories between unlikely characters, and both provide sympathetic accounts of the struggles of society’s outcasts.

In this interpretation, the part of the Lady is played by principal dancer Natalia Berríos, a regal presence who dominates the stage with her long arabesques and effortless turns.  The Lady, who must ward off several potential high-society suitors, is charmed by the simple, humorous theatrics of the Fool and his sidekick Bootface.  The haughty, cold Lady shows her soft, tender side only in the presence of the gentle Fool, their growing love demonstrated in a beautiful pas de deux.  The star of this first act is Berríos, a dancer whose tight, controlled footwork is offset by long, flowing arms.  While the plot elements of this first act seem rushed at times, particularly in chronicling the budding relationship between the Lady and the Fool, such are the challenges of ballet as narrative.  And developing such a story line is no easy feat for a forty-five minute ballet.

The second piece, The Young Man and Death, is an outstanding showcase of modern ballet that is also stunningly short at twenty minutes.  Known as a rebel in the disciplined world of ballet, choreographer Ronald Petit’s ballet touches upon the theme of love, but in a dark, twisted manner.

The rebellious elements in this ballet can be seen right from the outset, when the curtain opens onto a bleak, gray bedroom with a lackadaisical young man splayed across his bed smoking a cigarette.  Dismal music plays in the background.  The young man is interpreted by principal dancer Luis Ortigoza, whose dancing here is precise and acrobatic.  A difficult and athletic role, Ortigoza captures not only the physical complexities of the part, but also the emotional elements.  His tormented young man is seduced by the female Death (also his lover), danced by Romina Contreras.  Clad in a bright yellow dress with black gloves, Death strides onto the stage, a tyrannical, cruel force bent on sexually taunting the anguished young man.

Throughout this ballet, several modern, non-classical aspects are evident, from the presence of only two dancers on stage (without the backing of a corps de ballet), to the overarching theme of suicide, the extensive use of furniture, and the dancers’ smoking during the piece.  In particular, this ballet is characterized by the dancers’ use of furniture, such as tables and chairs, to perform acrobatic feats.  In the beginning, when Ortigoza is alone on stage, he utilizes the chair as if it were a dancing partner.  He dances while seated in the chair and then in a mesmerizing display of balance, he dances onto a tipping chair, only leaping off at the last second.  Later, he performs an arabesque on the edge of a table, and jumps off soundlessly.

Although an unusual pairing of ballets, the narrative classical with the existential, the overall performance is effective and well-choreographed.  Of the two ballets, The Young Man and Death is the most visually impressive and athletically difficult.  Longtime principal dancer Luis Ortigoza dancing in tandem with Santiago Ballet’s youngest member Romina Contreras creates a tour de force on stage.  This performance highlights the multi-faceted talents of the Santiago Ballet, particularly the rising star Romina Contreras and the always exceptional Luis Ortigoza.

**To purchase tickets, and for additional information regarding show dates and times, please visit the Santiago Municipal Theater’s website.   

 

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. what a kind review of the ballet, i cant wait to learn more about what’s trending in Santiago

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