Please also view my oil paintings of ballet in my Dance Gallery

At The Orange County Center for the Performing Arts, The American Ballet Theater's "Le Corsaire" has stunning sets and costumes, virtually non-stop solo show stoppers, and some of the best male dancing I've ever seen. We open with a pirate ship that fades in behind a scrim. The pirates become visible as the ship rocks on the sea behind the clouds and haze. Anna-Marie Holmes' staging cuts to the Middle-Eastern bazaar where slave girls are being traded. Irina Konstantinova Tibilova's sets are Middle-Eastern with minarets and lush, colorful Arabian costumes. The slave girls are in flimsy flowing skirts, and the whole scene is reminiscent of Henry Matisse's "Odalisques" or something from "1001 Arabian Nights." The pirates enter and Giuseppe Picone's Conrad is like elasticized steel as he leaps, twirls, kicks, and splits around the stage. He flies higher than anyone, and does it with effortless grace. Medora enters on a cushion drawn by four slaves as the slave master, Lankendem shows her off to all. Its love at first sight between her and Conrad, and they do a pas de deux. The Pasha enters inn a beautiful sedan chair. He becomes the center of attention as the three odalisques dance for him. After he rejects them, Lankerdem does a scintillating pas de deux with Gulnare. The Pasha buys her, and when he first sees Medora, he stumbles backward. Ethan Brown's Pasha is dance comedy. The character is outrageously overplayed as he leers lecherously, and stumbles around in his ridiculous attempt to dance with Medora. We have a great ensemble pirate dance as they capture the two girls and Lankerdem as the curtain falls.

Act 2 is in a rocky grotto. The ocean sparkles in the background with the pirate ship at anchor. Conrad and Medora do a lovingly sensitive pas de deux before he slave Ali joins in to do a dazzlingly athletic number with Medora. They alternate between solos and pas de deux as they do leaps, lifts, and high jumps. In this act, especially and the ballet in general, we have a remarkable contrast of delicate women and powerful men. Conrad returns and he lifts her above his head, she lays out and splits high in the air, before falling as he catches her. After Birbanto drugs Conrad, Medora is stolen back by Lankerdem.

The third act opens on the Pasha's veranda. There are three stone arches covered with palms. The harbor and city are in the background. All goes dark as the Pasha goes to sleep, and we switch to his garden, with a fountain at the back. We have some of the best ensemble dancing in the ballet, as he dreams of all his wives and slaves. They divide in groups as six becomes twelve and they weave back and forth in geometric designs, with a semi-circle of girls with flower garlands at the rear. We have eight little boys dressed as sultans and groups of young girls. This is a dazzling display of form, design, and motion. After the Pasha wakes up, and the pirates steal the girls back, they are chased by the Pasha's men in a hazy scene behind the scrim. The ship appears again, and breaks apart in the storm to thunder and lightning. Conrad and Medora wash up on a rock to climax this opulent production of "Le Corsaire." Susan Jaffe is an elegantly nimble Medora. She's light, smooth, and lyrical to the strength and power of Giuseppe Picone's Conrad. Marcelo Gomes is a strong and muscularly fluid Ali, while Yan Chen's Gulnare is gracefully feminine. The music by five composers, and at times shows it. We have thoroughly inspiring passages, but a few just seem to be there for no apparent reason. The choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev, after Marius Petipa more than makes up for it, as does the opulent staging of The American Ballet Theater's "Le Corsaire" at The Orange County Center for the Performing Arts.

Please also view my oil paintings of ballet in my Dance Gallery

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