Saturday night at the Winspear Opera House, patrons and guests gathered in the grand lobby dressed in their finest glittering gowns, elegant tuxedos, perfectly styled hair and engaged in anticipatory chatter. The champagne flowed freely as the audience geared up for TITAS’ annual Command Performance gala, an evening of eclectic pieces spanning the spectrum from pure classical ballet to neo-modern, and contemporary ballet. The pre performance speeches by TITAS Artistic Director Charles Santos and board member Gail Zaiks Halprin promised a little something for everyone, and the repertoir certainly delivered on that promise.
The evening’s performance opened with one of two aerial dance expositions featuring Jenny Mendez. Mendez and her two different partners, Joshua Dean and Timothy Harling, have taken Lisa Giobbi’s aerial choreography to a new stunning level. The movement sequences were an awesome result of their dramatic presentation, physical power, graceful elegance and an uncanny ability to use precarious stillness as Mendez anxiously perched over a trapeze swing or was suspended by overhead wires moving her to the very precipice of safety.
The second of four couples to perform, Wendy Whelan and her partner Desmond Richardson brought back Christopher Weeldon’s “After The Rain,” a piece danced on the Winspear stage just over a month ago when TITAS presented the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. The Joffrey dancers were outstanding, but there was a mesmerizing quality in the dance this evening that gave a rare depth of interpretation. No doubt, NYC Ballet’s, Wendy Whelan shines in this abstract work, filling emotionally empty slates with defiance, power, and longing.
Janessa Touchet and her partner, Cervilio Miguel Amador, embraced versatility with two completely different styles: the ultra contemporary, undulating, rolling hip movements of “Remix,” set to the music of Philip Glass, and “Flames of Paris,” a seldom performed classical pas de deux. Janessa sailed through the opening jetés with impressive elevation, and later, in her solo, she made the endless diagonal of hops on pointe look effortless. Cervilio matched the height of her jumps dancing with great speed and precision throughout.
Without a doubt, the evening’s standout couple were Yuan Yuan Tan and Damion Smith of San Francisco Ballet. Their first piece, choreographed by Jessica Lang to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s sonorous music, “Among The Stars,” was commissioned specifically for this evening’s gala. It’s a music-inspired abstract—an interplay of melancholy melodies and sophisticated dance movements. Costumes were designed by Nicole Pearce—Lavander ballet dress, a romantic poets blouse and tights on Damion, coupled with a breathtaking, translucent, silk scarf, large enough to span the entire width of the Winspear stage—accentuate the beauty of their dancing bodies. Yuan Yuan was undoubtedly the centerpiece of this dance. She seemed to float in space and time for the duration of the piece. Her incredible artistry continued with their second performance, possibly the most well-known classical pas de deux of the last 100 years, “Swan Lake.” The air of soulfulness about Yuan Yuan, the sense of buried grief that emerges at times, the warmth in her facial expressions, the beauty of her lines and her movement – all are at once describable and elusive.
Like “Flames of Paris” the final selection for the night, “Don Quixote,” was a jarring showpiece providing the bravura that one comes to expect with these types of galas. The pas de deux was performed by Carla Korbes and Karel Cruz of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, who appeared earlier in the evening in the neoclassical, “Concerto Dsch Pas De Deux.” Carla exemplifies the beauty and purity of Petipa with an elegance of those great ballerinas who came before her in the role of Kitri. Equally, Karel’s dancing was exaulted and abundant, yet precise and controlled. Form was never sacrificed for quality, and every leap and turn finished neatly and particularly in the series of double tours and double pirouettes at the end of his variation.
This year’s command performance serves to underline TITAS’ position as a presenter of world class ballet in Dallas Texas. Artistic director, Charles Santos’ ability to attract the best guest artists from around the world speaks volumes to their reputation. Year after year, TITAS continues to set new standards of excellence for dance patrons across the metroplex.