If last night’s dress rehearsal is any indication, tonight’s opening night performance of “Carmen” and “Who Cares ” is sure to bring the house to their feet.
Ronald Petit’s Carmen is an erotic and emotion filled roller coaster you will never want to end. Alexsandra Meijier is perfect as the sultry and wicked Carmen. She uses her eyes and her wiles to distract Don Jose (Jeremy Kovitch) as her henchmen (Ramon Moreno, Amy Briones and Akira Takahashi) convincingly pick his pockets.
Marvelous combinations meld them together, an attraction that builds in the haunting dance in the bedroom where she seals her control of his heart. Then, when her attention is drawn to the handsome and confident Toreador, (Maximo Califano), she pushes away her earlier conquest.
The tension is palpable as Kovitch seems determined to win her back by the force of his will. Again and again his movements demand the return of her love. But she fights him like a raging bull. When, in the end, he realizes he will not win this battle, he ends it in an emotionally wrenching climax.
Opening for Carmen is a piece Gershwin would have loved, George Balanchine’s “Who Cares”. This delightful rendition of songs that live in our hearts is magnified by the talented dancers who perform it with such delightful abandon. In “Sweet and Low Down”, parts of which could easily pass for an Ester Williams musical, graceful ladies seem to half dance and half float. They move lazily as if held up by water. Lighting adds to the illusion as it ripples and flashes off the beautifully sequined costumes with just a hit of bathing suit to them.
In “S’Wonderful”, an amazing joining of ballet with steps that bring to mind the best of Ginger Rogers,is danced by the talented Junna Ing paired strongly by Shimon Ito. This happy dance of new lovers has them seemingly lighter than air, their feet often appear to not even touch the floor.
The delightfully spritely Amy Briones gave a strong performance in “Stairway to Paradise”, followed by Mikel Solas treasuring the delicate Mirai Noda in “Embraceable You”.
Karen Gabay is so in control of “Facinatin’ Rhythm”, it often seems she is conducting the music herself. Her delightful twists and joyous steps seem to pull the notes out of the orchestra.
“Carmen” with “Who Cares” plays 4/1 through 4/3 at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts. Good seats are availible online at www.balletsj.org or at the theater. Tickets $16-$100.