ILIANA LOPEZ (5-13-06)

By Lawrence Budmen 

Ballet Gamonet concluded its season on May 13 at Gusman Center for the Performing Arts with a landmark event. The company’s ballet mistress and former Miami City Ballet principal dancer Iliana Lopez returned to the stage in But I Never Saw Another Butterfly Again, a stunning new work by choreographer and company guiding light Jimmy Gamonet De Los Heros. This ballet is definitely one of Gamonet’s finest works. 

Set to the second movement of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony no.3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), the ballet is powerful and overwhelmingly moving. The music’s text is a child’s prayer that was scrawled onto the wall of a Nazi Gestapo prison cell. The sensuously beautiful score was popularized in the 1990’s in a recording by soprano Dawn Upshaw and conductor David Zinman. 

Gamonet has crafted a ballet for eight women with heads shaven – a powerful but abstract concentration camp reference. The leading ballerina (in lyrical strophes) searches the stage for someone or something lost. In halting movements the female corps follows her desperately. This piece is immensely haunting. At its conclusion the women leave the stage two at a time through a lit exit. Clearly they are facing their deaths. The final image is heartbreaking. The leading ballerina walks arm in arm with another dancer toward the door. The pathos of this work is truly heartbreaking. While Gorecki has said his music offers hope after the world’s greatest inhumanity, Gamonet finds none. At the end of this beautiful work, the tragedy has been brought home in the most vivid manner as only art can do. 

Lopez was magisterial in the principal role. Ever a creature of grace and beauty, she weaves an indomitable spell. Her dancing is as fleet and nimble as ever. Lopez was marvelously supported by Susan Bello, Laura Clark, Jessica Colina, Diana Gomez, Christine Hodges, Migdalia Martinez, and Laura Ramirez. But I Never Saw Another Butterfly Again is a magnificent melding of music and movement. This is a bona fide Gamonet masterpiece. 

The remainder of the program was wonderful if anticlimactic. My Lady is a lyrical Gamonet adagio that weaves a magic spell. Originally created for Miami City Ballet, the piece is a modernist view of Baroque and an idealization of the ballerina. Dancing to music from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in F Major, Stephanie Walz was beauty personified. She moved with a subtle, lyrical line. 

The Crystal Hour is a tango ballet by New York choreographer Dwight Rhoden. This strangely disturbing work might be called tango meets MTV. . In contrast to Astor Piazzolla’s sparkling nuevo tango score, the six dancers are combatitive, verging on violence. Rhoden’s view of tango has the power to upset but it is not easily forgotten. The statuesque Britt Juleen dominated the stage. 

Gamonet’s Big Band Supermegatroid was a great favorite when he created it in the 1990’s for Miami City Ballet. This setting of music by Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Jimmie Lunceford has the pizzazz of Broadway and Hollywood. Juleen brought fire and high stepping precision to String of Pearls. Hiroko Sakakibara and Edgar Anido were stunning in the quirky steps and intricate patterns of Stratosphere. The Sing, Sing, Sing finale was a super extravaganza – great fun Busby Berkeley style. 

Ballet Gamonet has come a long way this season. The premiere of Gamonet’s new work and Lopez’s aristocratic dancing moved the company to another level. But I Never Saw Another Butterfly Again was dance at its greatest; from the heart. 

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