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Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Oregon Ballet Theatre Keller Auditorium, Portland, OR APRIL 22-29, 2006

Mad for Mozart--that describes Portland in April and May as it honored the composer's 250th birthday. The symphony played his music; the opera sang Don Giovanni; and Oregon Ballet Theatre devoted its spring program to three contrasting choreographic takes on Mozart's many moods. Each ballet was performed to live music, well played; each showcased the dancers' technical versatility--in spades--and the breadth of the art form.

No opener could have proclaimed this a company rooted in classicism better than Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15, danced for the most part with a naturalness and ease that made it look flesh and spanking new. Staged by Francia Russell, who restored some details lost since its 1956 premiere, the precisely patterned, intensely musical ballerina variations in particular were technically impeccable and joyfully danced.

In James Kudelka's Almost Mozart, grief weighs on the mourners--or the dying--in tandem with gravity's pull. For this world premiere, the edgy Kudelka fashioned a score with Mozart's Masonic funeral music, bits of the orchestral accompaniment to Piano Concerto No. 23, and large slices of silence for a work radically different from Divertimento in mood, style, and technical demands.

Earthbound, it begins in silence while two men dance a brief duet; on opening night Damian Drake and Paul Destrooper set the heavy-hearted tone. Three entwined trios (with the addition of Alison Roper) follow, separated by musical interludes. Roper, on pointe, struggles to get flee; each part ends with the men collapsing to the floor while she stands, triumphant. An eloquent pas de deux follows, to the funeral music, given sexual undertones by Kathi Martuza and Ronnie Underwood and, in a different performance, a shattering grief by Roper and Artur Sultanov. The choreography suggests heavy sorrow as the ballerina clings to her partner, keeping her body rigid; she cannot let him go, nor he her. A silent solo with fleet footwork, danced by Roper opening night, Yuka Iino later, suggests that life goes on, that grief becomes lighter.

Lar Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty Two made a good closer, although by the third viewing it seemed inexorably cute as the dancers kicked up their heels and capered in the choreographer's well-crafted arrangements. The Adagio duet, performed tenderly by Jon Drake and Underwood, seems dated and sentimental in the light of Brokebaek Mountain. But the company had a fine grasp of Lubovitch's Taylor-inspired vocabulary, and clarinetist Todd Kuhns infused his playing with all of Mozart's sadness and delight. See
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Title Annotation:Mad for Mozart
Author:West, Martha Ullman
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Opera review
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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