Home Arts-Entertainment Showcase BRAVO! AND ENCORE! BALLET CONCIERTO



Feb. 25. 2002 – The island of Puerto Rico is just a hop, skip and a jump from here, but the Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, in ballet terms, made a grand jete, or a great leap, and landed on the stage of the Reichhold Center for the Arts in a technically pleasing, creditable performance Saturday night.
"Latinissimo" was the piece of the evening, featuring the fiery music of the legendary Tito Puente, el Rey del Timbal (loosely, "the King of the Drums"). The pulse of the Latin beat ably set the rhythm and percussion for the dance. Seeing the classical ballet steps being done to this hot Latin music took a bit of getting used to, but once one was acclimated, it worked.
This internationally acclaimed troupe of 20-odd dancers is well rehearsed and possesses the most important elements in classical dance — strong technique, good body placement and well-articulated feet. This was my first exposure to the company, and I'm pleased to say these talented dancers did justice to the choreography. There's no mistaking the influence of American Ballet Theatre, a prime factor in the career of Lolita San Miguel, founder and artistic director of Ballet Concierto.
The romantic bolero "Sabor a Mi" was effectively interrupted by Lara Berrios, Orlando Viamontes and Lyulma Rivera. Partnering switcharoos were scattered throughout "Latinissimo," which is credited with three different choreographers. They had lots of fun with Gloria Estefan's "Conga," featuring six female dancers and one male, Alexis O'Farril, who was a standout throughout the evening — as well as with the section with seven male dancers and one female. Several of the nine sections in the piece displayed interesting and inventive movement.
Through its yearly Choreographers Festival and Encounter of Caribbean Choreographers, Ballet Concierto has developed its exploration of contemporary themes here in the region. Of choreographic note were the grand battement, or high kick, and a rather unusual move in classical ballet of the lifting and twirling the ballerina upside down, as with a baton.
The big toe-tapper in the first dance was the ending with the recorded sounds of Ricky Martin, a Puerto Rico native and current celebrity pitchman, belting out his megahit "Living la Vida Loca." Both men and women had good control on their pirouettes and made excellent use of their well-stretched and limber bodies.
There was a sameness to the tone of the presentations, probably due to the choice of the two pieces offered. Fortunately, the dancers exhibited good acting and dance technique, which did much to lift the heaviness of the second offering, "Carmen," danced to the brilliant and well-known music of George Bizet.
Carmen, danced by Amparo Rodriquez, Roberto Lopez as Don Jose, and Jose Rodriguez as Escamillo portrayed the ill-fated leading characters in the tragic story. ABT is well known for its full-length ballets, a tradition evidently honored by Ballet Concierto. I would love to see this company tackle "Swan Lake," "Sleeping Beauty," "Giselle" or even the romantic "Don Quixote." These ballets are staples in the ABT repertoire and would no doubt work well for this group.
There were some obvious problems with the theater's technical operation. We waited in darkness for a short while during "Carmen," and the beautifully danced pas de trois just before Carmen is killed by her soldier lover was so poorly lighted that parts of the dance were performed in near darkness. Better use of the follow spot and improved lighting plots would have made a world of difference.
Overall, there were some bright moments and flashes of excellent dancing spread out over the two- hour performance with a 15-minute intermission.
I feel compelled to make this added note on the subject of time: Arriving late to the theater is rude and shows disrespect to other members of the audience — and, more importantly, to the performers, who have spent many days, months and years and long hard-working hours to prepare for this evening. Theatergoers the world over know that you are supposed to be in your seat at the appointed hour, which requires a little attention to time management.
Latecomers climbing all over you, mashing your toes, and distracting your attention from the stage make it impossible to really appreciate the theatrical experience. Yes, just in case you didn't know it, the audience that sits and watches and listens also is a part of the performance. Your applause is the response to the dancers' choreographed artistic movement and performance.
Lateness is more pronounced at the Reichhold than at many other venues because those in their seats can see and hear folks coming into the open amphitheater setting. Elsewhere, patrons arriving late are not seated during performances but are made to wait until the first pause or intermission before they are permitted to take their seats.
Droves of latecomers strolling in after 8 p.m. — to as late as 9 p.m. for a curtain time called an hour earlier — is unacceptable. The art of classical dance, most commonly called ballet, is rooted in very strict discipline, something audiences here would do well to emulate.
Meanwhile, hats off to Lolita San Miguel, her principal dancers, soloists and corps de ballet. Since they are based in nearby Puerto Rico, let's encourage Reichhold director David Edgecombe to arrange an encore!

Editor's note: Lee Vanterpool, a Government House public information officer, is a former dancer with New York City Ballet.


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