Times Staff Writer

Orange County was served a disappointing budget version of the Cynthia Gregory 20th Anniversary Tour Thursday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa

Los Angeles audiences had seen the principal ballerina for American Ballet Theatre last month, accompanied live by pop singer Linda Ronstadt and a small orchestra. But the glamorous Segerstrom Hall patrons, who had paid up to $250 per seat for the charity performance, endured muddy, scratchy prerecorded tapes suitable more for a high school auditorium than a purported world-class facility.

The high prices were intended to benefit Childrens Hospital of Orange County and the Junior League of Newport Harbor, a laudable goal. But such a second-rate presentation did no one--certainly not Gregory--a great service.

Gregory, herself, was in splendid form--breathtaking in balances, radiant in youthful projection in the Rose Adagio from "The Sleeping Beauty," lithe, warm and engaging in Michael Smuin's "For Sentimental Reasons" (set to Ronstadt songs). She also showed magnificent control in Victor Gsovsky's glitzy showpiece "Grand Pas Classique," despite untypically rough partnering by New York City Ballet principal Adam Lueders.

Her partners in the Rose Adagio included, in addition to Lueders, a promising Devon Carney, Medhi Bahiri and Russell Murphy. (Murphy repeated his Los Angeles role in the Ronstadt suite.)

Actually, the canned, inflexible accompaniment created problems for virtually everyone. Lueders and several of Gregory's six young dancers all too often would finish ahead of--or off--the beat. Technical firebrands Michelle Lucci and Bahiri simply looked harassed in efforts to keep up with one of the fastest "Don Quixote" pas de deux performances in memory.

At this point, it was reasonable that Gregory's charges rose more securely to technical than dramatic challenges. Marie Christine Mouis and Carney danced strongly, but without suggesting any poignant drama in a pas de deux assembled (rather crudely) from Act II of "Giselle." Mouis and Murphy created impetuous, but callow young lovers in a balconyless Balcony pas de deux from Smuin's "Romeo and Juliet." (Lucci and Murphy danced Smuin's "Bouquet," which was reviewed previously.)

Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

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