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Flash Review 2, 2-11: Is Youth Wasted On the Young?
Not on Jeune Ballet!

By Tom Patrick
Copyright 2000 Tom Patrick

Oh, to be twenty again, and bursting with talent and training! Never fear, those of you who fear for Dance's future: There are examples of tomorrow's stars on show at Florence Gould Hall in the Alliance Francaise/French Institute. This year's crop of Jeune Ballet de France, seen Thursday, consists presently of nineteen recent graduates--ages 17 to 21--from around the world, enjoying (I hope) a one-year residency of repertory work, and cutting their professional teeth in a big way. JBdF has since 1983 chosen a group annually to participate, a structure which at first glance sounds like a prize-award but is much more in deed. A revolving company situation is a complicated one even with a constant personnel structure, but this company raises the bar even higher with its brief tenure for it's dancers, putting a cap on their involvement which dovetails nicely with their youthful enthusiasm and fearlessness. Let's get to the future, they seem to be saying, in their variety of ways....

That said, I think you'll be excited by this presentation of brief dances, in two acts, collected under the headings Contemporary Creations by Emerging Choreographers, and Dance Pieces on French Songs. It is a smorgasbord of voices and messages, testing these dancers extensively with happy results, especially for the dancers and the dance audiences of today and tomorrow. This is in several ways pleasing: a large sampler of choreographers and moods, none predominating over the interpreters, smartly puts the focus on the dancers, and keeps the atmosphere onstage constantly changing.

From the first duet, "Febrile" ["feverish"] by Ivan Favier, I was reassured. Brian McKenna Maloney (American) and Bulgarian-born Emmanuella Merdjanova took the stage with confidence and great poise, running flank-to-flank in large shuffling circles, only to square off in opposite corners. Nervous flicks of their feet while they stand facing each other, conversing with their eyes. Strong low sissonnes bring them closer together eventually, and they conjoin in some deft partnering-at-speed. There is a wound-up, anxious air to it, which requires no bilingual dictionary. They are fast and full of it! Both these two tore into the floorwork with beautiful abandon, and for the first of many times I was heartened by evidence of some very comprehensive training housed in these sleek young things....

In other cases--for example the following piece, entitled "Les Indomptes"--the brevity was a blessing, as two shirtless men bared some of their relationship (as envisioned by Claude Brumachon and Benjamin Lamarche) in a vague-but-challenging duet. Here there was a little problem with scope, as I felt that the dancers--Christian Aarne Ruutu (Finland) and Serzhan Kaukov (Kazakstan?)--were performing for Yankee Stadium, and I felt they would have said more by not shouting so much (in dance terms.) A general tone in a loud voice becomes a drone, and it made me squint for awhile....

"Shogun" by Ivonice Satie came next, an atmosphere-piece thick with solemnity and to a slightly lesser degree with repetition. The dancers acquitted themselves quite well, and I was again reminded that I will be buying tickets to other of these dancers' performances in the future after they are scattered to the winds and another crop of Jeune Ballet follows behind.

More clearly this time: These neo-pros consistently matched or outperformed the choreography-at-hand, but no shame there. They seem able to do anything asked (even blindfolded!), and they can do it very very fast and clean, de rigeur in tomorrow's presumed world. I've gotten the same tickle attending past concerts of the Julliard Dance Ensemble: Wow, what lies ahead for such already-developed talent! Through song after song, they toss off astonishing partnering and heartfelt interpretations, bursting with the Juice of Life. So what if some of the evening's seventeen sections held inscrutable histrionics or sluggish introspection? The evening's winners were all of us, as JBdF's dancers displayed such enviable articulation and artistry. I was deeply impressed by their sophisticated understanding and excellent training, and for this I must also send kudos to their staff for the immense work such an annual/ongoing undertaking must demand of them. Would that a Flash Review permitted me the extensive time for them all to receive the praise they deserve. (Except, sad-to-say, stage management at the Gould, where terrible bow cues undercut the relief and reward of our ovations again and again.)

Clearly this is a most auspicious and benevolent appearance for all of us: there is much to hope and watch for in the coming years, if Jeune Ballet is any indication....Do yourself a favor: See them this weekend!

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