BWW Review: Alpha Omega Burns with DeJesus, Flatlines in Pomare
Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company closed its 47th season with an intimate concert at Peridance's Salvatore Capezio Theater. The evening featured four ballets, two by Eleo Pomare and two by the company's artistic director, Enrique Cruz DeJesus. During his curtain speech, DeJesus explained that the company would use this intimate concert format to build towards a more substantial celebration for its 50th season. Not a bad idea financially, though this evening suffered from smaller scale dancing than I've ever witnessed from the company.
Steve Reich's anxiety-inducing soundscape of a Southern Baptist preacher gone mad is how one is introduced to Eleo Pomare's response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in which white terrorists murdered four little black girls. Tabernacle tests one's faith by asking, "Are you going to run out the door through those flames, or do you believe that God will deliver you?" Like many of Pomare's ballets, it makes use of exaggerated versions of classical modern technique to illustrate a community in horrific anguish. Having danced the ballet when it was revived in 2013, I am familiar with the pain that it can inflict upon its dancers and audiences. During a coaching session with Tyrone Monroe, he warned me that Pomare wanted to hurt his dancers and that I had to be careful not to go too far. Indeed, I'd already pulled my quadricep while rehearsing one of Tabernacle's "super concentrations". Though this revival was excellently restaged--every mark was hit, and every detail etched in--the dancers delivered a muted performance that stopped at the stage's edge rather than radiating out past the Jersey shore.
Alpha Omega's current dancers are incredibly talented. They include the former Martha Graham Company dancers Ari Mayzik and Octave Parfait as well as longtime company stalwarts Tyler Clark, Leann Gioia, and Sarita Apel. So what went wrong? Believe it or not, I think the dancers were thrown off by performing in a smaller space. The company usually performs at Ailey Citigroup Theatre, which is equipped with a stage that is twice the size of Peridance's. Could it be that dancing in a smaller house tricked the dancers into believing that a lesser performance would suffice? This theory was proven plausible when the dancers performed Las Desenamoradas, Pomare's version of Federico García Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba. When the company last performed Desenamoradas, I was completely blown away--I declared the ballet one of the best performances I had seen all year. Sadly, this performance left me less than satisfied.
Leann Gioia replicated her stellar performance as the mother and Adelita Hinojosa-Martin all but set the stage on fire with her lustful yearning. Still, the ballet's balance was undone by a princely performance of the lover. Ari Mayzik has one of the strongest Graham techniques in the world and is a gorgeous dancer, but I did not believe him for one moment as a lustful dude who'd risk a crazy Latin mother's wrath for a night of passion. He was serving Albrecht when the part calls for a Stanley Kowalski. That misreading of the role and an overall muted performance neutered the action.
Where the company soared was in reviving DeJesus' soulful pas de deux from Bittersweet. Perhaps it was Oleta Adams' stirring voice, or maybe it was a relief after having finished Tabernacle, but Mayzik was nothing short of amazing in this sexy pas de deux with Sarita Apel. Apel's extension scraped the sky as she opened herself up to everything that Mayzik had to give. I frequently accuse DeJesus of choreographing movement that is too fast for his dancers. Here he took time to marinate in the juices of a romance that does not work out for one reason or another. I did not understand what caused Apel to walk away from Mayzik finally--they looked so good together that I was eager for another movement to celebrate their successful partnership.
Perhaps these dancers were simply not suited to Pomare's ballets, which is a shame considering the fact that the talent is clearly there and it does not get much better than those masterpieces. But if my take away from the evening was, "DeJesus knows how to sex things up," then I'll take it and look forward to seeing his next steamy romp.
Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company performed this evening of Enrique Cruz DeJesus' and Eleo Pomare's ballets on November 17th, 2019 at the Salvatore Capezio Theater at Peridance.