Amanda Farris and Christian Squires in Trey McIntyre's Just.  Photo Bérenger Zyla

Amanda Farris and Christian Squires in Trey McIntyre’s Just.
Photo Bérenger Zyla

Del Valle Theater, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA;
May 8, 2015

Bryn E Namavari

Diablo Ballet’s Celebrated Masters program had the dancers smiling broadly throughout the evening as well as the audience. The final show of the company’s twenty-first season opened with the premiere of company member Robert Dekkers’ Do Be, also featuring an original commissioned score by Chris Cerrone performed live by The Living Earth Show on guitar and percussion. It is one of five chapters currently in development by Dekkers with Post:Ballet.

As described by Dekkers the piece explores a coming of age and letting go. With costuming by Christian Squires, each of the five dancers wears a classical length tutu and a harness to which a white balloon, or several, are strapped. The balloons create a unique dichotomy within the dialogue of the choreography acting in their own time, to their own slow rhythm – like caricatures – while the dancers move below. Dekkers and Squires’ collaboration proves a winning combination. Do Be is joyful, light, ethereal, but also tinged with melancholy – a resonating portrayal of Dekker’s themes.

Structural, sculptural, abstract and minimal, the Solo and Duet from Trey McIntyre’s Just is perfect for the small space of the Del Valle Theater. The subtlety of the nude costumes and the intimacy of the choreography are well suited to the closeness of the audience. Squires’ performance was impressive, as usual. It is no wonder he is an audience favorite and what former company dancer Karen Porter Lapointe refers to as a “stunning creature.”

Tetyana Martyanova and Justin VanWeest in Val Caniparoli's Book of Alleged Dances.  Photo Bérenger Zyla

Tetyana Martyanova and Justin VanWeest
in Val Caniparoli’s Book of Alleged Dances.
Photo Bérenger Zyla

The duet from Book of Alleged Dances by Val Caniparoli and set for Diablo Ballet by Joanna Berman, can only be described as a challenging slow motion mash-up. Caniparoli’s choreography mixes classical with more bizarre references, pushing the audience to stretch its imagination. Like abstract painters that choose to put only a square on a canvas despite their every ability to paint photo-realism, Caniparoli’s dance reminds us that contemporary ballet can often not appear as the ballet we normally think of, but it is no less valid. Tetyana Martyanova and Justin VanWeest brought joviality and grace (where it is called for) to the difficult piece and left the audience chuckling at its conclusion with a cheeky snap (literally).

It is easy to see why the Wedding pas de deux and finale from Coppélia were chosen to conclude the evening. The grand classical pieces are energetic and a delight to watch. Saint-Leon’s ballet gives the company every opportunity show off its dancers’ skill and athleticism – and gives the audience a taste of just what they come to the theater to see: bravado. In stark contrast to Book of Alleged Dances and Do Be, the audience is not asked to understand the choreographer’s deeper meaning or explore any abstract idea. Coppélia is a light-hearted comic love story and can be
enjoyed for its pure Romantic frivolity.

Ludmila Campos and Aidan DeYoung in Coppélia.  Photo Bérenger Zyla

Ludmila Campos and Aidan DeYoung in Coppélia.
Photo Bérenger Zyla

In typical form, creative director Lauren Jonas sets contemporary pieces in contrast to classical and the company rises to the occasion. Do Be’s androgynous tones in costuming against Coppélia’s with its very definite score is in its feminine flute trills and tinkling triangle for the ballerinas and masculine brass and cymbal crashes for the leaps and bounds of the male dancers.

One can’t help but revel in the ballet’s lavishness, its flamboyant choreography and oft-crescendo-ing grand score. The Diablo dancers each took their turn spinning and leaping across the stage, each segment concluding with a great flourish that the audience gladly met with enthusiastic applause. By its end, the audience couldn’t help but clap along to the score and shout out their “bravos” at its conclusion.