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DANCE REVIEW : Joffrey Ballet Revives ‘Petrushka’ at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Mikhail Fokine’s 1911 masterpiece “Petrushka” is really not one ballet but two--and both were back in the Joffrey Ballet repertory Friday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

First, of course, was the piquant four-character ballet about a Russian puppet-with-a-soul and his triumph over manipulation, oppression, rejection--even death.

No less important, however, was the bustling, large-scale depiction, mostly in pantomime, of a 19th Century carnival in St. Petersburg.

In these sequences, Stravinsky’s great score served rather like the sound track of a National Geographic documentary and the idea of split focus, double vision, extended to many paired characters and matched action patterns.

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At the end, there were even two Petrushkas in view--the dead body, the indomitable spirit--with Fokine’s interior and environmental perspectives merging in a haunting new sensibility.

This “Petrushka” spirit often seemed missing from the new Joffrey revival (supervised by Yurek Lazowski), especially in the crowd scenes--very broad and sloppy.

In his first performance of the title role, Carl Corry proved very sweet and superbly loose-limbed-- but too much like the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” for the far creepier world of this ballet. Philip Jerry tried to underplay the Moor (probably not possible and certainly not satisfying to watch), and Beatriz Rodriguez brought no more than diligence to the Ballerina. However, Jerel Hilding’s Showman worked the crowd splendidly and had a perfect blend of real menace and theatrical fakery. Allan Lewis conducted expertly.

The company gave far more persuasive performances in two familiar but highly challenging works from the 1980s: Paul Taylor’s sunny, plotless “Arden Court” and William Forsythe’s abrasive social portrait, “Love Songs.”

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In “Love Songs,” Deborah Dawn’s spectacular mastery of the teetering, lunging, out-of-control second solo may have been the finest thing she has ever accomplished. Carol Valleskey (first solo), Rodriguez (second duet) and Patrick Corbin (male solo) were only marginally less brilliant.

Except for Ashley Wheater, the men in “Arden Court” may have looked scrawny compared to their counterparts in Taylor’s company, but they danced excellently. If we must see modern dance approximated by ballet troupes, let it always be with this degree of zest and precision.


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