August 4, 2008

Ballet, Chamber Music Fuse Beautifully

By Jennifer Noyer For the Journal

Ballet Pro Musica presented its second Albuquerque-based Chamber Music Ballet Festival, featuring this year Mexico's Compaia Nacional de Danza at the Hispanic Cultural Center. The idea is to forge a new marriage of dance and live music, deepening the relationship between the two art forms. Mexico's dancers were a delight to behold, especially in Mark Godden's "Reflections" to Maurice Ravel's "Miroirs," and John Clifford's ballet to Felix Mendelssohn's Sinfonia Number 9.

The Felberg Chamber Virtuosi expanded this year to include nine musicians, including the superb pianist Jacquelyn Helin. The sound was a bit muddy during the first movement of the opening "Concerto Grosso," choreographed by Alex Ossadnik to J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Number 6. The dancers and musicians had some difficulty melding, due perhaps to a shortage of rehearsal time between the two groups. It all came together in the second adagio movement -- an airy, light and lyrical dance with Mayuko Nihei, Ma. Del Mar Mazzaferro, Hector Jimenez and Francisco Rojas.

Godden's "Reflections" mirrored the sights and sounds of nature that inspired Ravel's piano suite of five pieces. Ravel gave descriptive titles to each piece that inspired Godden's choreography. "Night Moths" brought two couples on stage to flutter darkly into beautiful angular sculptures as the moths landed together and formed intriguing geometric images, sometimes involving a delicate humor as bodies flitted with feather-like antennae and wings.

Two dancers, Mahaimiti Acosta and Ral Fernndez danced "Sad Birds," a kind of pas de deux with elbows and knees closing and opening in a mournful expression of fear in darkness.

"Boat on the Ocean" was breathtaking; two couples whirled into lifts and fluid dips, each lift developing from an embrace. This was a passionate leave-taking, reminiscent of families caught in an Irish sea tragedy. Mazzaferro, Monica Barragan, Jimenez and Rojas swept through space as though airborne over the waves.

Hansell Nadchar gave a bravura performance in "The Morning Song of the Jester." With a feather and a scroll he created both the story of a jittery, distracted young man and an exhibition of stunning technical virtuosity with leaping turns in the air and multiple entrechats and cabrioles that scarcely touched the floor.

The "Valley of the Bells" suffered a bit from the loss of one dancer due to an injury that day, but it evolved successfully into a serene finale as all of the dancers walked slowly on stage, sat, and listened as pianist Helin concluded her own virtuoso performance of Ravel's music.

Clifford's choreography for Mendelssohn's "Symphony for Strings" was tightly fused with the musical motifs and lyric lines as all eight dancers moved in the symmetric groupings of the Baroque style, creating balanced geometries on stage. The second adagio movement expressed a serene, yet psychologically connected pas de deux between the exquisite Nihei and a totally controlled Fernandez. They moved together in a fluid harmony. The third movement, a Scherzo, brought the entire group into patterns of two, four and eight that fulfilled the abstract musical patterns.

The Festival concludes Sunday afternoon with a 2 p.m. performance. Tickets are still available at the door. Don't miss it!

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