By R.M. Campbell
When Angel Corella made his debut as a soloist at American Ballet Theatre some 16 years ago at the age of 20, his dancing was a sensation. A few months later he was promoted to principal and in the years to follow became a star attraction, an essential part of the company’s extraordinary collection of great male dancers from the Old World and the New.
The Spanish dancer enjoyed an astonishing career at the company as well as with other ballet companies as a guest artist. A decade ago, he began a foundation to promote classical dance in his native country which has long had a problem sustaining a ballet company with international standing. Three years ago, he and his sister Carmen founded Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon. He is the ensemble’s artistic director and she, associate artistic director. More than 20 individuals appear on the company’s roster, including Angel Corella’s colleague at Ballet Theater, another major star, Herman Cornejo. Most have Spanish names but not all.
Corella Ballet made its Seattle debut Thursday night at Meany Hall. Its dancing raised eyebrows, blood pressure. These are virtuoso dancers who possess a vivid stage presence. Clark Tippet’s “Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1” demands elegance and finish, two attributes that readily define these dancers. Everything was done cleanly, every phrase was assured and polished. The piece may not break any precedents, but when it is danced in such a spectacular manner, who is one to object. There was a time, in the seemingly distant past, when Pacific Northwest Ballet danced Tippet. He died and his work has never appeared again in the company’s repertory. “Bruch” was the second ballet Tippet did for Ballet Theatre. Corella Ballet gave this ballet formality and beauty and style as well as spectacular dancing. The corps was excellent, everything perfectly shaped. The soloists were equally polished.
“For 4” is a work by the English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, whom Corella knew in New York. It was designed for four virtuosic male dancers. There is no ambition in this piece for any kind of intellectual endeavor. It is a showpiece, pure and simple. But what dancing is required. Dayron Vera, Fernando Bufala, Aaron Robison and Yevgen Uzlenkov provided the drama and the fireworks, going from one stupendous feat to another: the fastest and longest turns, the highest jetes, sheer power, all intended to wow an audience. And wow it did Thursday night. How often does one see this kind of exuberant skill?
The Corella team danced only once: Maria Pages’ “Solea.” This was the only work on the program that had any hint of Spanish flavor, in this case, flamenco. The two suggested flamenco with varying degrees of subtlety and emphasis. Whatever they did worked. Eventually flamenco was left behind, and the sheer dancing of the two overcame stylistic considerations. And what dancing it was. I saw Angel Corella dance early in his career and somewhat later. There is no diminution in his technical resources. They were at the max Thursday. He appeared as if he could do anything anywhere. His sister Carmen is first-class dancer of style and panache.
It seems hard to believe that “DGV: Danse a Grand Vitesse” was choreographed by Wheeldon. Well, even the best can have off nights, and this is one of them. What a huge waste of talent. It is taken from the style of William Forsythe, an American who has made his career in Germany. It proves how hard Forsythe can be to emulate. Michael Nyman’s music is equally fake.