BWW Review: Los Angeles Youth Ballet Presents A DOUBLE BILL: MIXED MOTIONS & PETER & THE WOLF at El Portal Theatre
Saturday, September 27-29, 2019
The Los Angeles Youth Ballet's Artistic Director, Andrea Paris-Gutierrez, introduced the program for the evening, giving a warm welcome to the audience.
The first half of the "bill" was entitled "Mixed Motions." Talented Choreographer Cedric Dodd, mounting his work on the company members of the Youth Ballet, gives a fantastic opportunity for these young Company members, getting to learn different styles of choreography, then performing it, in their growth as dancers.
The first dance piece out was "50 Years," one of three new pieces, a joyous celebration of ongoing equality taking place in our society, despite ominous forces, with significant progress finally seeping it's way into the mainstream of overall consciousness, and hopeful in it's continuation to bring acceptance, freedom and unity. The dancers, Eliana Chasen, Sofia Monroy, Mia Narvades, Annya Redfern and Brooke Sinton, performing to Donny Hathaway's moving "For All We Know," were immersed in the modern style; with fluid movements, they brought a very spiritual essence to this piece. Their developpes' and contractions all had such intensity and meaning, felt and conveyed by each dancer, and the choreography and staging were beautifully done, including very interesting and offbeat formations, by Cedric Dodd, who choreographed all three pieces in Act One.
The second piece, "Boyz," by Artist M.I.A. was a totally upbeat, crazy soundtrack, volume up, and was a little more dazzle-oriented, loud and explosive musically; a full group of dancers that took charge of the stage as it showcased many of the physical and gymnastic abilities of the dancers. It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch, albeit a little off on unison contractions during the number. Dancers Megan Attarian, Melody Attefat, Samantha Cafy, Ella Cholfin, Ava Fox, Corelle Gabay, Ava Genco-Kamin, Jules Kramer, Genna Milman, Emily Polydoros, Gabriella Rasho, Shelby Rubin, Paige Ventimiglia and Meriel Zeltzer gave it their all, and emitted that fun throughout their performance. They dug into the formations and choreography with energy and purpose.
Lasty, "What Moves in the Night," by Bjork, danced by five energetic dancers who were beautiful in execution, hitting beautiful lines, impeccably timed to the right parts of the music, sensually undulating in certain sections, but never offensive or unpleasing; barefoot, attacking the floorwork, with interesting formations, and quite an unusual ending. The lovely dancers were Alison Cabanday, Eliana Chasen, Brooke Sinton, Jana Teruel and Ellie Wein.
Excellent lighting of the pieces throughout; credit to the Lighting Director, Bri Patillo.
The second half of the program was an absolutely delightful romp through the tale of Peter and the Wolf, with music by Prokofiev, Choreography by Conny Mathot.
For the featured role, that of the Wolf, Special Guest from the Royal Danish Ballet, Adam Lendermon (Cats, Westside Story, A Chorus Line ) gave a convincing and illustrious performance, matching his wolf-like voracious energy with the rest of the youthful cast. One of the youngest cast members, 12-Year-Old Malcom McLaurin Takumi as Peter, has several dance accomplishments and rewards under his belt, already, and did a meticulous and heartwarming job in the title role.
The costumes for this piece were off-the-charts adorable and creative. It really enabled the whole production to shine even brighter and were one thrill after another as they made their separate entrances on stage as the different characters. It's hard to say which costumes tickled me more... the frogs or the hunters... But I digress...
As explained in the beginning, each of the characters in this tale are represented by an instrument in the orchestra, i.e. Peter, our hero (Malcolm McLaurin-Takumi) danced with the strings, The Bird (danced by Brynn Iby) danced to the melody of the lilting flute, The Wolf (Adam Lendermon) to the trombone, The Duck, (Alison Cabanday) the oboe, and the Frogs, the bassoon, of course! As each character entered, they did a short solo to the matching instrument, demonstrating how dance and music are so entwined in the telling of this Musical Play.
Malcolm McLaurin-Takumi, as Peter did a fine job, dancing and acting. His steps were very clean and deliberate (nice entrechat, right off the bat!), and it was very clear as to what he was doing every moment. He took control of the stage when needed and enhanced the entire production with his attention to the details.
The Wolf, big, bad Adam Lendermon, was exciting, as he lept from the wings, with bold, powerful movements, to foreboding music letting us all know something was about to happen.
He characterized the cagey, sly, devious Wolf quite nicely, and as he barrel-leap turned, grand jete'd and did a walkover to show his might, he set his sights on devouring that tasty-looking Duck.
All of the characters were lively and well done, with inventive steps for each different character, and clean formations, dance steps, intentions. I got a kick out of Georgia Folsom as the Grandfather, as she physicalized to a tee "his" body language and demeanor. The Bird, Brynn Iby, was lovely balletically as the flittering ave and brought a lot of life to the stage. Allison Cabanday, in the fun part of The Duck, had me giggling as she executed very duck-like movements with glee, also en pointe. When Emma Grigorian as The Cat pounced upon the stage, she grabbed my attention with her cat behavior and agileness, and The Hunter, played with much gusto and enthusiasm by Nadia Gruhlke, was all about full out dancing and moving the plot along tout-suite.
Then came the four most adorable groups, and I just have to repeat how creative and colorful all of the costumes were, credit to Beckie Kiefer, Head of Costuming. I need to mention also, that for each of the four performances, for each one they rotated the cast members, so, I'm reviewing the performance specifically on Saturday evening, September 28th, 2019.
The Green Meadow Girls, eight of them, en pointe, sparkled and shimmered in sea-green dresses all over the stage and did a marvelous job setting and livening the scenes. The Water Ballet Ballerinas were absolutely perfect in their twinkly bathing caps and formations, The Four Frogs were beyond precious, leaping vivaciously on cue; real scene-stealers, that bunch, and last, certainly not least, the group of Hunters, who took over the stage after a great entrance and did some wonderful, descriptive dance combinations and moves, all while holding long rifles in their grasp.
With such descriptive music as Sergei Prokofiev, and the creativity used in putting this entire presentation together, made for a wonderful evening filled with a nice variety of entertainment, with a lot of heart put into it.
LA Youth Ballet, "the premier ensemble of the Los Angeles Ballet Academy," (KTLA) is an advanced pre-professional student ensemble for accomplished classical dancers ages 13-19. Many of its alumni have garnered numerous awards and have gone on to professional careers with some of the world's leading ballet companies and musical theatre productions around the country.
For more information on all they have to offer: http://www.laballet.com
Photography by Robb McKindles Photography & Iker Gutierrez