By Lawrence Budmen

Sometimes small miracles occur in the performing arts. Vladimir Issaev’s production of Petrouchka for Arts Ballet Theatre is one of them. This eerie Russian fairy tale cries out for color and atmosphere. The primal earth rhythms of Igor Stravinsky’s score demand choreography of primitive power and kaleidoscopic scope. Issaev has met those challenges and more. On second viewing, his Petrouchka is even more impressive, danced by a seasoned company that has become comfortable with his challenging choreographic vision. The performance on October 6 at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater really sizzled.

Issaev’s vivid choreography blends with Jorge Gallardo’s costumes and Igor and Elena Bondarenko’s sets to fill the stage with eye catching color and excitement. Issaev captures the jagged rhythms and harmonic astringency of Stravinsky’s music. Indeed he brings the scenario of the puppet Petrouchka (who is endowed with human emotions) to life in a manner that is lucid and audience friendly. The choreographer provides many vivid, unforgettable images along the way – none more so the final vision of Petrouchka’s ghost towering over the puppet theater’s roof. 

As Petrouchka, Brian Ruiz gave the most remarkable of performances. An agile dancer and mime, Ruiz was convincingly puppet like. He brought vivid pathos and poignancy to his portrait of this all too human marionette. As The Ballerina, the source of Petrouchka’s infatuation and tragedy, Yoshie Oshima exhibited disarming petite pointe in the best scene stealing tradition. Andrey Konkin was appropriately athletic and flashy as the evil Moor. In the colorful guise of gypsies, circus crowds, nannies, and (appropriately) ballerinas, the Arts Ballet Theatre ensemble was outstanding. What Issaev has achieved with this company is a joy to behold.

Petrouchka was preceded by Issaev’s The Seasons, set not to Vivaldi’s or Piazzolla’s popular scores but to Verdi’s balletic evocation from the Paris version of the opera I Vespri Siciliani. First performed at the historic Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia in June 2006, Issaev’s ballet paints the pastels of changing seasons through a series of aristocratic, classical pas de deux. Verdi’s charming music demands to be danced and Issaev’s realization is beautiful. Gallardo’s costumes enchant the eye and the senses. Ruiz was less impressive in the Winter pas de deux but he was partnered by the stunning Renee Roberts. Oshima dazzled in the Spring sequence, Mark Kudelya less consistent as her partner. It fell to Konkin and Alina Hernandez (as Fall) to fire up the stage with stunning leaps and pirouettes - bravura dancing in the great Russian manner. Issaev’s choreography was loving molded, an apt tribute to Petipa and the Russian classical tradition.

Here were two ballets from opposite choreographic aesthetics, the work of a gifted creative artist. Once again, Vladimir Issaev created dance magic! 

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