PETROUCHKA (10-22-06) 

By Lawrence Budmen 

Vladimir Issaev’s often remarkable production of Petrouchka is an enchanting fantasy. The Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida presented Issaev’s bracing choreographic vision on October 22 at the North Miami Beach Performing Arts Theater. Founded nine years ago by Issaev, the company is an impressive ensemble that brought freshness and spontaneity to this tale of a puppet with all too human feelings. 

Issaev’s training and background is in the Vaganova technique and the great Russian balletic tradition. His version of Petrouchka is true to the vision of its original creator Mikhail Fokine. Issaev’s choreography is consistently inventive and matches the primal, rustic rhythms of Igor Stravinsky’s powerful score. Moreover Issaev vividly captured the bitter irony in this nightmare of a fairy tale.

Elena Bondarenko’s sets and Jorge Gallardo’s costumes filled the stage with a panorama of colors and vibrant hues. The circus atmosphere (and the contrasting behind the scenes insularity) came vibrantly to life. For sheer atmosphere, this Petrouchka had character and style to spare.

Issaev inspired his young dancers to some remarkable performances. Brian Ruiz was an astounding Petrouchka. He evoked both charm and pathos at one and the same time. His speed and timing were perfect. The final image of Petrouchka’s ghost suggested that the puppet may indeed live in theatrical lore. Based on his impressive performance so may Ruiz. 

Yoshie Oshima was a fetching ballerina of great enchantment and dexterity. Her picture perfect timing suggested she was a real puppet. Oshima was a darting presence that lit up the stage with her every appearance. 

Andrey Konkin, a former member of Russia’s esteemed Perm Ballet, was a flashy Moor. His muscular pyrotechnics were eye filling and exciting. He is clearly a dancer to be reckoned with. Konkin has flash and technique to burn.

Rodolfo Penaloza was a striking figure as The Charlatan who sets the tragedy of Petrouchka in motion. (Issaev’s choreography admirably made the narrative totally clear even to those who were not familiar with the ballet’s scenario.)

Of the large supporting cast, special kudos go to Andrey Resniaski (who was pure dynamite as the Russian dancer) and Renee Roberts and Alexandra Vernick – real standouts and scene stealers as the Two Ballerinas. 

The large corps de ballet and children’s corps (as little Petrouchkas and Moors) performed with spirit and character. The crowd scenes were alive with cinematic vigor and life.

Vladimir Issaev achieved the remarkable in this production. Petrouchka is a complex, ambitious work. With a youthful company, Issaev delivered an eye catching, exciting version of this most Russian of ballets. 

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