The opening night celebrating Iberian Suite at the Kennedy Center began with a piano piece by Javier Perianes that was elegant, intricate and simple at the same time. Light notes played into deeper and more demanding fare that lead back to a playful, spring-like end.
The work then changed to a beautiful video montage with images of the natural world and words reflective of personal qualities found in Iberian culture. (The microphone stand, in the left corner, though made of clear material, was noticeable through a couple of scenes.)
Eugenia León, known as the voice of Mexico, gave off an earthy vibrance with her piece, that resounded with hope and pain. The subtle natural quality was also found in the ballet work of Carmen and Ángel Corella, the latter's costume dress being a natural beige color that blended with her skin and graced all her movements with perfect fluidity. Ángel was simple in black pants and shirt.
Their ballet was for the first half, made of low movements close to the ground, with Carmen's flamenco to break the cohesion from earth bound motions to higher jeté and pirouettes. The dancers moved within a uniquely mellow harmony, with a sense of long practiced symmetry.
The dancers of Grupo Corpo from Brazil, were amazing with earth based core movements in intricate unison, while wearing costumes that really looked like they could be painted skin, with red-browned and earth colored skirts for both the men and women.
The scenes continued with video montage, poetry and a commemoration for the beauty in all its forms of Iberian culture.
By Sarah Bahl
"Ballet's Greatest Hits–YAGP Gala" played at AFI Silver Theater last Sunday, is remarkable for bringing to life what people love most about ballet. The still shots of dancers perfectly embodied in mid-air remind one of how perfectly graceful these athletes are. Their grace brings an ethereal sense of power to a long standing dance profession which will hopefully never die out. The Nutcracker was delved into as one of the most popular ballets of all time, due to its storyline and the playful, elegant qualities of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's score that brings a person to another world, that is filled with sugar, light, and its own magical dangers.
The cross cultural affinities of ballet were addressed with discussions of Flames of Paris, a Soviet ballet of the French Revolution. Though, the dancers' movements were basic, (at least based on the clips shown) the intrinsic cultural values were of utmost precedence for the piece. The historical accounts of Giselle were interesting as the first dancer to play Giselle, Isabelle Ciaravola, is still so well known today. The lead dancer for the Willis was interviewed, and the otherworldly elements of the piece and the psychological meanings behind them are commented on by the dancer(s).
Overall, the film is fun, interesting, and of great cultural and historic value. That is, once one recovers from the horror of watching ballet via film and not live. The still shots of the dancers in air, helped balance the ballet on film aspect. Seeing is not believing, as one may see, blink, and still not quite find to be true, the wonderful love for life and beauty that is ballet.
The Mariinsky Ballet performed Prokofiev's Cinderella, from October 16th to the 21st, at the Kennedy Center. This performance was in a manner; stark, urban, and modernized. The background set, reminded me, in its drab plainness of the set from the movie, West Side Story.
Act I begins with the evil Stepmother and Stepsisters getting their hair done against a bare warehouse style background. The Stepmother and Stepsisters are larger than the petite and lovely Cinderella. Their clothes consist mainly of ugly neon concoctions or baggy shapeless items, that are of marked difference to Cinderella's flowing, pale, graceful ensemble.
The Stepmother and Stepsisters leave for the ball and Cinderella is transformed by an old haggard drone, (really a faery in disguise) into a beautiful lady. The drone does this by pulling the needed items: dress and slippers, out of an old ratty bag.
Some of the scenes confused me, because in order to show the faery, warning Cinderella of her fate if she does not return before midnight, Cinderella dances out the fate, collapses to the ground and the curtain is pulled. I did not realize this was symbolic of future pretense. The realities of Cinderella's collapse, either eluded me or were not portrayed clearly.
Act II begins at the ball, where the characters and meaning are simpler. The dancers' movements are puppeteered in unison to the point of comedy. The audience laughed repeatedly during Act II as throughout all acts, for the ballet movements often took on a playful cartoonish quality. At least for all the characters except the consistently elegant Cinderella and her Prince Charming.
Cinderella is gorgeous - in white - and dances with her Prince Charming. She leaves at midnight, leaving behind her one glass slipper...
By Sarah Bahl
To escape to the Kennedy Center in morbidly hot weather is a gift of itself. The plush red carpet is comforting and the hum of persons being shuttled in an orderly fashion to their seats is part of the veneer. Giselle being performed by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Kennedy Center is a gem to see.
According to, La Maison Française’s information letter, the Paris Opera Ballet has not been to the Nation’s Capitol in 19 years. The ballet runs through the 8th. The First Act of the story begins with bright and natural woodland scenery. The floor is kept a simple wood and the costumes are elegant and rustic to reveal the simple peasant Giselle (danced by Isabelle Ciaravola). Her dress adds to the quaint rhythms of the peasants' motions as they celebrate the harvest.
There are two men in Giselle’s life. One who she accepts and the other, she keeps at a distance. Her preferred man is Prince Albrecht of Silesia, who, tired of court life decides to dress as a peasant and woo the lovely and innocent Giselle. Her jealous suitor, the Gamekeeper Hilarion, unmasks Prince Albrecht, and in doing so reveals Albrecht to be already engaged to the noblewoman Bathilde, (dressed in highly refined and lushly embroidered costume to starkly contrast with Giselle being herself.) The sensitive Giselle dances to reveal her confusion and pain. She dies from the pain of her lost love and the competing men nearly duel over her.
The Second Act, is absolutely beautiful in an otherworldly manner, with a darkened woodland scene, as Giselle, now deceased has joined The Wilis, the spirits of young women, with the misfortune of death brought upon them before being wed. The dancers, in white spirit garb, are all the same height, and dance in unison to celebrate their current fate within the black woodland night.
The Wilis enact revenge for their broken hearts by wooing young men into their world, never to return. Their first victim is Hilarion. Then, it would be Albrecht, as well, except Giselle convinces the other spirits to let him go, because she still likes him so much. And so the story ends. Giselle returns to her world and Albrecht remains within his own, much as it all began.
The original costumes represented are by Paul Lormier, for the ballet’s initial 1841 production. At the time, Romanticism was in high fashion among the general populace in France and the costumes and ideals behind the ballet marketed to this particular niche. Lormier did much historical study to create as realistic a garb as possible. The current costumes represent the spirit of his work.
By Sarah C. Bahl