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Dance review: Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon at the Ahmanson Theatre

November 7, 2010 | 11:50 am

Carmen Corella Ballet Castilla y León came to Los Angeles for the first time Friday amid a wave of anticipation. Its founder, Ángel Corella, is a favorite American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, and his decision in 2001 to open a foundation in Spain to give classical dance training to students regardless of their social or economic condition must be applauded. It took a reasonable seven years for a company to emerge in 2008.

That date came to mind during the first of four works danced at the Ahmanson Theatre: The company is only 2 years old; give it time. Those excuses, however, were swept away with the second work, and thereafter the company went from strength to strength, even though Corella brought his own star power to just a single piece.

The opening work was Clark Tippet's "Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1," created about five years before the ABT principal's death in 1992 at the age of 37. Embodying different aspects of love, four principal couples -- Kazuko Omori and Yevgen Uzlenkov (lyric), Natalia Tapia and Aaron Robison (passionate), Maria José Sales and Sergey Diyachkov (romantic), and Cristina Casa and Fernando Bufalá (playful) -- looked effortful in the work's intricate and ungainly lifts and poses. Blame the choreography.

Stanton Welch's "Clear," however, showed dancers of great power and precision. An arresting if abstract response to the 9/11 tragedy, Welch has seven bare-chested men and one woman mirror Bach's rhythmic impulses and strict musical constructions in inventive geometrical patterns that only slowly begin to evoke images of grief or falling bodies and collapsing structures.

Angel Dayron Vera was the alpha male and Carmen Corella, Angel's sister, the nurturing, calming presence. Robison, Jonathan Díaz, Uzlenkov, Bufalá and Toby Mallit completed the virile group.

Next came what everyone was waiting for -- Corella and his sister in María Pagé's "Soleá." Danced to music by Rubén Lebaniegos, the thoroughly enjoyable eight-minute piece was a gloss on, rather than a marriage of, flamenco and ballet. Angel's smiles sweetened the severe form, while his virtuosity -- diagonal turning jumps or hopping turns with switchblade leg shifts flashing in the air -- was breathtaking. Carmen's pointe work was demure and elegant.

The program (part of the Music Center's dance series) closed with Christopher Wheeldon's "DGV: Danse à Grand Vitesse." Michael Nyman's exhilarating score was unrelenting and irresistible in its rhythmic drive and coruscating orchestration, but Wheeldon slyly played against it by foregrounding four slower-moving couples -- Carmen Corella and Vera, Omori and Kirill Radev, Tapia and Robison, and Casa and Bufalá.

The juxtaposition of speed and stillness created an intoxicating wave that announced the Corella Ballet has arrived.

-- Chris Pasles


Corella Ballet seeks to build a national classical company in Spain

Upper photo: Carmen Corella and Dayron Vera. Credit: Anne Cusack /Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: Ángel Corella greets the audience with his sister, Carmen. Credit: Anne Cusack /Los Angeles Times