Three By Balanchine

REVIEW by Willard Manus

The Los Angeles Ballet company has certainly come of age into its fourth season. Under the careful training of artistic directors Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen they have burnished the company into a group of first class, disciplined and strong dancers. They performed a program of Balanchine dances at three venues in the southern California area, at Freud Playhouse, Alex Theatre and Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach.

The company is fortunate to have at the helm Colleen Neary who was a dancer with Balanchine's company when he first choreographed Kammermusik. It was a sensation when first performed in 1998 and is still exciting today. Balanchine's relationship to the music is deep and committed; he uses the male dancers to represent the orchestral line and the two principal couples reflect the piano solos.

Regarding Serenade Neary explained that at first the ballet was intended as a lesson for students, but it evolved into the stories of rehearsal happenings - when one dancer came late Balanchine included that, when one dancer tripped and fell, that was in too. But the dance, to music by Tchaikovsky, eventually evolved into one of the most beautiful and moving dances in the company's repertoire.

The third and final dance was the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.2, also known as Ballet Imperial. This gave an opportunity for the dancers to show their strong technique and fine dancing. Created in 1941 as an homage to Petipa and Balanchine's own Russian heritage, it begins with a grand opening, followed by a romantic interlude and finishes with a bravura finale. Lead ballerina Monica Pelfrey was dazzling and her partner Zheng Hua Li was graceful and strong though perhaps not so sure in his partnering.

If you missed the company's first performances of the season, make sure to attend its program New Wave LA, which will play at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center May 15; Alex Theatre, Glendale May 22, The Broad Stage, Santa Monica May 2 and 30, all at 7.30 pm.

Box Office 310 998-7782.