Los Angeles Ballet's Third Season

REVIEW by Willard Manus

SANTA MONICA -- The combination of a soft spring night, congenial setting and superlative dancing marked the anniversary of Los Angeles Ballet's third season as a company. Under the umbrella title of DIRECTOR'S CHOICE, L.A. Ballet mounted three spirited works: Balanchine's Prodigal Son and Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and the world premiere of Jennifer Backhaus's An American Camelot.

The last, first. Backhaus, a homegrown dancer and choreographer, took music by Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt and Dean Martin and made something lighthearted and jaunty out of it. Six couples led by Kelly Ann Sloan and Andrew Brader proceeded to swing-dance to their heart's content--jitterbugging and Charlestoning all over the Eli Broad Stage. It was all very exuberant and American, pop art at its best.

The evening kicked off with Patricia Neary's interpretation of Prodigal Son, inspired by Balanchine's original choreography (set to Prokofiev's music). The Cuban-born Eddy Tovar was borrowed from Orlando Ballet to dance the lead role, one of his specialties. He delivered the goods, showing off his power and virtuosity as a dancer, not to speak of his superior acting skills. His journey as youthful rebel breaking free of family bonds to romp in the underworld, only to be tamed and then shamed by The Siren (a slithery, haughty Melissa Barak), was utterly convincing, as was his penitent return to the enfolding embrace of the family patriarch (Peter L. Atherton).

The Stravinsky Violin Concerto gave L.A. Ballet the chance to show just how far it has come as a company (which is under the tutelage of Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary). The classical piece was danced with precision throughout, fluidity and feeling as well. Neary, with the help of Karin Von Aroldingen, was responsible for the staging. Tony Kudner's light design and Franco Martinez's costumes were big plusses as well.

Los Angeles Ballet's upcoming season includes The Nutcracker, a full-length ballet from the Romantic era, La Sylphide, and another new creation from Jennifer Backhaus. For information and tickets call 310-998-7782 or visit losangelesballet.org.