By Marianne Donnelly
Special to the Las Vegas Tribune
UNLV Artemus Ham Concert Hall thundered with heartfelt applause and a standing ovation for Stars of The Russian Ballet (Charles Vanda Master Series). This phenomenal company thrilled us with ten complex, perfectly executed, masterpieces including: “The Rose Adagio” from“The Sleeping Beauty” (Tchaikovsky); Adagio from Cinderella (Prokofiev); Adagio from Romeo and Juliet; Grand Pas de deux Don Quixote (Minkus); Dying Swan (Saint Saens); and more.
Now, as this writer had only one year of ballet lessons, it is my welcome exercise to study a few technical ballet terms to share with you about this evening.
First, “Bravo” – the Italian word meaning (literally) brave or (figuratively) well done is directed at a male dancer (ballerinO), so you would say ‘bravO’, and for a female dancer (ballerinA), one would say,‘bravA’. For a group of male or mixed dancers you would use ‘bravi,” and for a group of female dancers you would use ‘brav-e’ (pronouncing the ‘e’ as in red).
Adagio from Wiki:
“…adagio (literally, at ease)…in ballet means slow, enfolding movements, performed with the greatest amount of fluidity and grace as possible… Adagio combinations typically consist of the principal steps: plie, developpe, attitude, arabesque, and grande rond de jambe, to name a few. In a Grand Pas (or Classical Pas de deux, Grand Pas d’action, etc.), the Adagio is usually referred to as the Grand adage, and often follows the Entrée.”
Allegro (from Wiki)
“Meaning brisk, lively. A term applied to all bright, fast, or brisk movements. All steps of elevation such as the entrechat, cabriole, assemblé, jeté and so on, come under this classification. The majority of dances, both solo and group, are built on allegro. The most important qualities to aim at in allégro are lightness, smoothness and ballon.”
Pulling Up (from wiki)
“Pulling up is critical to the success of a dancer… To pull up, a dancer must lift the ribcage and sternum but keeps the shoulders relaxed and centered over the hips which requires use of the abdominal muscles. In addition, the dancer must tuck their pelvis under and keep their back straight as to avoid arching and throwing themselves off balance. Use of the inner thigh muscles as well as the ‘bottom’ is very helpful in pulling up. Pulling up is also essential to a dancer en pointe in order for them to avoid putting more weight than necessary onto their toes.”
Even though I am not deeply immersed in ballet, I still was able to marvel at the precise, graceful, seemingly effortless, displays of such technically difficult passes as in tonight’s Sleeping Beauty, Rose Adagio, where the ballerina has to steady herself through a series of unsupported balances from each of her four ballerino partners while passing the roses.
According to the program, Marius Petipa’s choreography is considered one of the greatest achievements in ballet history.
Perhaps my favorite section tonight was the evocative upper body, arms, hands and fingers of the ballet, originally entitled “The Swan,” but now titled “Dying Swan” following Anna Pavlova’s tremulous interpretation of the work’s dramatic arc as the expiration of life. “The dance uses also uses tiny-steps called pas de bourrée (wiki).”
Each selection was stellar tonight. If you have ever tried projecting yourself into the air, landing smartly, turning at lightening speed, bending (plié) repeatedly, balancing another human with one arm, or running in pointed-toe, in a moment of make-believe, you will come to appreciate what perfected machines these bodies are! These moves require brutally demanding muscular control, breathing and concentration honed over 20 years minimum of study and performance. Their training never ends.
What a shame this show was only here one night. What luck I had to go and what a great gift UNLV Performing Arts Center is to the public. I thank them for all of us!