2 Joffrey Dancers Hail Ballet Pacifica Date as Challenge
One of the dangers of being in a repertory company is that you can get typecast. Tina LeBlanc and Edward Stierle--members of the Joffrey Ballet--for instance, have reputations for speed, virtuosity and persuasive characterization.
No one associates them with the eloquent classicism of Petipa’s “Sleeping Beauty” or the show-stopping circus pas de deux culled from the 19th-Century story ballet “Don Quixote.”
So when they guest as a pair with Ballet Pacifica to dance these works on Saturday, both see it as an opportunity to expand their range and reputation.
For LeBlanc, 22, the roles as Kitri in the “Don Quixote” pas de deux and Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty” are both fresh territory.
“This is a totally new experience for me,” she said in a recent phone interview. “But who in their right mind wouldn’t want to do Aurora?”
LeBlanc dismissed questions about technical difficulties facing her in the roles.
“For me the hardest part is the characterization,” she said. “Really, we are talking about two totally different people. Kitri is a very headstrong brat. Yeah, I’m used to playing things like that. Aurora in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is more demure, more elegant. . . .
“I want the audience to see the characters, not me, and (I want to) be convincing in both.”
For Stierle, also 22, at least one of the works is old hat.
“ ‘Don Q’ is my thing,” he said. “I’ve done ‘Don Q’ many times,” including a performance that won him a gold medal in the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Miss., in 1986. He also danced the role at a festival of medal winners in Paris in 1985. (He had won a gold medal in the Prix de Lausanne Competition in January, 1985).
But the Prince in “Sleeping Beauty” is new to him and a different kind of role.
“It is anti-type for me,” he said. “I am known as a virtuoso. So it really helps me; it excites me to be seen in this light. And it challenges me. . . .”
LeBlanc and Stierle have danced together in Saint-Leon’s “La Vivandiere” and have been in Ashton’s “La Fille Mal Gardee,” both works seen in Orange County in the last two years. They are also learning Joffrey artistic director Gerald Arpino’s “Suite Saint-Saens.”
“I think we are very well suited to dance together,” LeBlanc said. “You make a connection with Eddie. With some dancers you don’t feel the connection.”
The two were invited to dance by Molly Lynch, artistic director of Ballet Pacifica, who is a friend.
“I felt it would be encouraging and inspiring to our dancers to work with people from a professional company,” Lynch said. “I felt it would also draw more attention to Ballet Pacifica at a time I would like to encourage people to come see the company.”
With their own rehearsal schedules with the Joffrey in Los Angeles running from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, however, LeBlanc and Stierle have had to hustle to find time to rehearse.
“We shove down our lunch and work during our work breaks,” Stierle said. “Basically, it’s been a lot of hard work. It has not been easy getting it together.”
Stierle cites establishing a dialogue between the two as the “most important task.”
“When doing ‘Don Q,’ the dialogue is more fiery and sharp,” he said. “You’re looking at each other with passion and that kind of energy, almost a competitive kind of energy. In ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ your dialogue has to be more loving. It’s your wedding. You love each other. It’s more that kind of dialogue.”
Timing and coordination are also challenges.
“It’s those fractions of a second that are so important, that can make a performance seem so clear, so easy and elegant.”
Neither sees any problems in doing guest spots with Ballet Pacifica, a regional company that they had not seen at the time of their interviews.
“A lot of guest work is done with regional companies,” LeBlanc said. “Very rarely do people guest with major companies because they have their own dancers.”
Stierle added: “This is such a wonderful opportunity for us to grow as artists. Whether performing for Ballet Pacifica or Joffrey, we are expanding our artistic horizons. In a sense, we grow as artists no matter what company we are performing for.”
Joffrey Ballet dancers Tina LeBlanc and Edward Stierle will be guests with Ballet Pacifica at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Irvine Bowl, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. LeBlanc and Stierle will dance the “Don Quixote” pas de deux and Aurora and Florimund in Act III of “The Sleeping Beauty.” Also on the program: Kathy Kahn’s “A Careless Ease” and Israel (El) Gabriel’s “Solitude.” Tickets: $6 to $20. Information: (714) 642-9275.
KIROV SOUVENIRS: After the Kirov Ballet’s recently ended nine-day run in Orange County, company dancers will be taking home memories--and bars of soap and boxes of detergent, according to people who accompanied or spotted dancers on local shopping tours.
While audiences in the Performing Arts Center may savor aesthetic memories, the dancers themselves reportedly went into raves about the variety and availability of everyday items such as toothpaste and soap that are treasured commodities in the Soviet Union.
And forget about the high-priced stuff in glamour malls: The hottest item, apparently, was Woolite. Of course--all those tights to wash.