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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Dance review
'Ballet Stars' predictable, but performed with technical polish

By Ana Paula Höfling

After overcoming the challenge of parking, and a half-hour wait in the will-call line, I entered Blaisdell Concert Hall to see the much awaited "Ballet Stars from San Francisco."

Having been given no program — they had run out — the first half of the evening was a guessing game: a vaguely Spanish solo with a chair and a guitar danced by a hyperflexible dancer, followed by a contemporary duet that showed a choreographer searching for his own voice within the ballet voca-bulary, and an overly dramatic pas de deux lacking in subtlety that ended in simulated copula-tion.

To close the first part of the program, the familiar third act grand pas de deux from "Swan Lake," choreographed in the late 1800s by Marius Petipa, was performed with all its dramatic content — albeit out of its context — and flawless technique by Yuan Yuan Tan as the seductive Black Swan and Benjamin Pierce as the gullible Prince, who drew "wows" from the audience with his triple tours-en-l'air.

A program found later on the floor, during intermission, revealed that the will-call patrons had missed Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," also revealing the names of the dancers, composers and choreographers of the pieces we had just seen.

After intermission, Petipa was the star choreographer again, with "Sleeping Beauty" and "Don Quixote," along with two contemporary pieces and Fokine's "Dying Swan."

Lack of continuity is inevitable and even expected in a performance of solos and pas de deux, which is the case in any performance that begins with the words "Ballet Stars from ..." By performing three of Petipa's grand pas de deux in the same evening, the formula used by the choreographer is exposed and becomes too predictable. The fact that the pieces that explored original movement and contemporary ideas relied heavily on guys in open shirts, prop chairs and technical feats didn't help.

However, the technical level of ballet dancing seen in Honolulu Saturday night made up for the box office and programming flaws.

Fokine's "Dying Swan," danced by Muriel Maffre, was made poignant by the dramatic use of her arms — her hands passive, her arms moving like broken wings.

Tina Le Blanc and Guennadi Nedviguine in Helgi Tomasson's "Two Bits" showed that ballet dancers can be rhythmical and move their torsos in this sexy duet.

The evening closed with the excitement of "Don Quixote." In the beginning of the traditional 32 fouette sequence, Lorena Feijoo dazzled the audience with a flick of her fan as she doubled every second turn, and Gonzalo Garcia drew effusive applause throughout his crisp, weightless variation.

The "Don Quixote Suite" also featured local Amanda Schull, who performed the flower girl variations showing precision and talent, inspiring young local ballet students.

Ana Paula Höfling teaches ballet at UH-Manoa, where she is pursuing an MFA in choreography.