REVIEW: Kimin Kim brings action-hero explosiveness to Mariinsky Schéhérazade

Dance · Reviews

I admit that prior to Sunday night I had never seen a full-length, fully produced staging of Michel Fokine’s Schéhérazade — including lengthy orchestral prelude, sets, costumes, the works. The Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra delivered their version this weekend at Segerstrom Center for the Arts as part of an all-Fokine program.

At Sunday’s performance, the lead couple, harem-hottie Zobeide (Viktoria Tereshkina) and her Golden Slave (Korean-born Kimin Kim), gave vibrancy and new relevance to this hugely historic Ballets Russes chestnut dating from 1910.

Schéhérazade is now, for me, a ballet of ballets. Amidst an opulent “Oriental” set garbed in stunning, beautifully fitting costumes, the dancers poured forth for forty-five minutes to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s searing score. And it was just awesome to hear this familiar music delivered by the Mariinsky Theatre orchestra.

The ballet looked neither overblown nor outdated; rather the inverse, it looked thrilling and fresh. Within its wild-and-wooly Arabian Nights theme — replete with requisite oozy, snakey-slithering — there was a pleasing economy of style.

Even Fokine’s adventurous use of a spine more fluid than classical dance had ever witnessed; even his use of hyper-extended arms with hands bent at middle eastern angles; even the way he parsed out the ladies’ thrillingly deep back-bends, was ordered in neat patterns and groupings that lent coherence. And beautifully delivered by the Mariinsky corps de ballets.

The ballet closely tracks its music, telegraphing plot and character with dead clarity about who is who and what is what. Such a rarity, to ride a ballet’s dramatic arc and emerge at the end feeling like you actually went somewhere.

The journey traverses a fable of ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ in which a Shah is betrayed by his wife Zobeide — danced with spunky modern-girl freedom by Tereshkina. She’s the harem’s capo dei capi, just one of many flexible fillies flouncing in gauzy pantaloons. Groups and gaggles of them. How exotic!

Kim danced Nijinsky’s originating role, the sexy Golden Slave, right at the dramatic edge, adding action-hero force that would make Nijinsky proud, I do believe. Both Kim’s immersive acting with his body, and his blasting into ballet pyrotechnics at every available opportunity evoked Nijinsky in such a respectful way.

The all-Fokine program alas fell somewhat flat in other areas, opening the bill with a strangely moribund “Chopinania” with sections danced at unprecedented slow tempi. Neither did “Spectre of the Rose,” a personal favorite, touch the magical realm of its pedigree. It’s a dream, guys! “The Swan,” aka “The Dying Swan,” bouréed through her last two minutes of life while an audience member in front of me toyed with her cellphone. Ekaterina Kondaurova, dancing the great female solo showcase, perished without me.

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REVIEW: Michelle Dorrance Dance @ The Wallis

Dance · Featured · Reviews

The night before seeing Dorrance Dance at The Wallis in Beverly Hills I binge- watched Astaire and Rogers clips on YouTube. Such elegant technique! Two bodies moving as one in gauzy ballrooms. Dancing as if on air. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Fred and Ginger embodied love and luxury for a generation eager to escape the Great Depression and impending war.

Michelle Dorrance and her company of enormously talented dancers explode this idea of tap. These men and women would fit right in at the gym, the therapist’s office, or the UPS Store. And they don’t time-step their way into love. Yes, they entertain. But instead of creating a distraction from the chaos and tragedies of our age – and we’re getting them in spades right now — Dorrance digs into dark places.

“Three to One” is somber in both lighting and feel. It ends with Dorrance literally dancing in the dark. It also shows her award-winning creativity. She, Matthew “Megawatt” West, and Byron Tittle barely move from their spots, as if held captive. Dorrance sports white tap shoes accentuating her white legs. The men, both African-American, are barefoot. All wear strange, spiky black dresses. It’s clever and it’s serious.

The first piece on Saturday’s program, “Jungle Blues,” while fun on the surface, is all street and hips and booze. When the chunky, bearded Nicholas Van Young twirls the girl into his arms – she of the plain red dress – he just as quickly drops her on the floor. She retaliates with a foot in his chest. The woman in black lace and red shoes drinks from a hip flask. The music by the Brandon Marsalis Quartet recalls a New Orleans funeral parade.

“Myelination” is a new, multi-part work – too long in my view – that gives each dancer a chance to show his or her technique. It also reveals the men and women to be independent equals. No romantic fluff here, although Dorrance does have a friendly duet with Tittle. Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie – a break dancer, not a tap artist – does a searing solo complete with silent screams and applause-generating spins on the floor. Christopher Broughton and Warren Craft, who is excitingly off balance all the time, dazzle in solos.

Dorrance dancers have torsos that move in unique and off-kilter ways. The group sections have a dynamic depth not usually associated with this art form – old school, in-person tap was usually a face-front-and-smile affair. I loved the shift between slow, solemn walking and million-taps-a-minute choreography. I loved seeing a live band on stage, but the score by Dorrance’s brother Donovan is repetitive and “Myelination” is ultimately a tap ballet in search of a story. The work ends in the middle of a phrase, perhaps signaling there’s more to come in Dorrance’s genre-bending explorations.

There’s a reason Dorrance is a MacArthur Fellow. As the Bessie Award committee noted, she is “blasting open our notions of tap.” As a dancer she is a raw, ungainly beauty – legs astride, arms flailing. Her choreography challenges us, sometimes overwhelming us with sound and fury. And as befits the times, she never gives us gauzy ballrooms. For that, and much more, we owe her a round of applause.

Gillian Anne Renault has written about dance for the Los Angeles Daily News, Herald Examiner and artsATL in Atlanta .

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Hollywood harassment nothing new, says Barrie Chase, remembering MGM producer Arthur Freed 3

Dance · Film
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Film · Theater
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Review: Karen Sherman’s “Soft Goods” @ CAP UCLA

Dance · Featured · Reviews
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Don’t back down, Jason Aldean. With Tom Petty.


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Architecture & Design · Featured · Film
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Family redefined: Armistead Maupin @ WEHO Reads

Language & ideas
An upcoming evening at WEHO Reads has Armistead Maupin discussing and signing his latest book, Logical Family: A Memoir.  [The acronym ‘WEHO’ signifies ‘West Hollywood,’ home to many distinguished writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who lived – and died – there.] Maupin, the author of the best-selling Tales of the City series, recounts his odyssey ...