In its fourth year of sporadic showcase performances, Los Angeles Chamber Ballet is growing into exactly the kind of company this city needs.
Reflecting the internationalism of the community, the company draws upon choreographers of many cultural backgrounds, yet still finds a place for distinctive home-grown talent. It attracts dancers who normally toil for film, television or bigger local ensembles, rewarding them with opportunities for fine-grained, deeply intelligent work otherwise unavailable here.
In a five-part program at the Japan America Theatre on Friday, the intimacy and refined interplay of chamber performance emerged quietly triumphant. In particular, the sensitive mood-painting in Raiford Roger’s septet “Wishes and Turns,” and especially its close relationship to Bohuslav Martinu’s Piano Quartet (on tape), gave familiar dancers a new maturity.
Bruce Wurl, for instance, can look like a promising but callow teen-ager when he appears with Long Beach Ballet. Friday, however, his dancing had virility and individuality, both in “Wishes” and in Patrick Frantz’s splashy suite “A Postcard From Los Angeles” (music by Joaquin Rodrigo).
French-born, Frantz brought a special gestural invention to this showpiece--as if he’d translated the way French people talk with their hands into a style of expressive choreographic ornamentation.
If “Postcard” gloried in imaginative arm positions, Frantz’s “Celcius” developed ideas about unorthodox ballet virtuosity into a intense pas de deux for Elizabeth Nesi (mistress of improbable feats of balance) and Rocker Verastique (master of punishing lifts that depended less on the arms than both the upper and lower back). Roger Lebow skillfully played Zoltan Kodaly’s Sonata for Violincello Solo as accompaniment.
Set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Victoria Koenig’s solo “In Another Part of the Forest” failed to make sections of formal dancing and atmospheric pantomime fit together. But it did demonstrate anew Koenig’s versatility and sophistication as a performer.
Crowd-pleaser of the evening: Stanley Holden’s astute and tasteful miniature, “Lyric Suite,” in which Ludmila Lopukhova became increasingly remote in games with two women (to music by Franz Schmidt) and then dreamed up a romantic cavalier (to Jules Massenet’s “Meditation” from “Thais”).
The Kirov Ballet’s gift to the Los Angeles dance community, Lopukhova danced with great physical freedom and emotional force, partnered with impressive danseur noble suavity by Laurence Blake. The choreography did little more than isolate Lopukhova and Blake’s singular virtues. But, as a long-time Royal Ballet principal, and a major ballet instructor here, Holden missed absolutely nothing.