In substantially the same program presented five years ago at Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Chile brought its excellent musicianship and problematic choreography to Pepperdine University on Wednesday.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the company emphasized bold theatricality, whether offering percussive yet elegant group dances drawn from central Chilean folklore ("Huasos") or a balleticized depiction of a lady weaver's romance ("La Chamantera") in which the colored yarns on her loom materialize as dancers.
Once again, the worst moments--in approach and execution--came in the suite from Easter Island ("Rapa-Nui") with its pointed-toe pseudo-primitivism plus ridiculous flesh-colored unitards painted with tattoos. Even when the piece shifted into generic Polynesian line dances, the company looked tense and effortful.
Happily, the music-making remained credible even when the choreography didn't--and the highlight proved to be a fleet, delicate trio for guitar, mandolin and Andean-style pipes. Compelling on a larger scale: the raucous blare of "Fiesta de la Tirana," the artful mix of drums, guitars, flute, voices and accordion in "Chiloe" and the archaic, surprisingly bluesy brass over drums and gourds in "Arauco."
As in 1990, Ximena Rodriguez and Jose Luis Hernandez sang with great skill and charm in their solo segments.
* Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Chile appears at 8 tonight in the University Theatre at UC Riverside, 900 University Ave., (909) 787-4331. Tickets: $10 (UCR students)-$22. On Saturday at 8 p.m., in Marsee Auditorium, El Camino College, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, (800) 832-2787. Tickets: $15, $18; at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Haugh Center, Citrus College, 1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora, (818) 963-9411. Tickets: $18 (students), $20.