Music: Jules Massenet • Choreography: Venti Petrov
The Tragedy of “El Cid” on the Ballet Stage
By Nina Alovert - Russian Bazaar April 28, 2011
Corneille reinstated the tradition of classical drama in the portrayal of human passion. “Le Cid” differs from the other works of Corneille as it is the only tragedy with a happy ending. The story takes place in the era of the Spanish conquistadors. At the basis of the plot is the love that the Spanish knight, Rogrigo Diaz (El Cid) has for Jimena, whose father – Don Gomez – he kills in a duel. Jimena finds herself in a tormenting conflict between her love for Rodrigo and her honor. By moral standards of the period, Jimena has the duty to request that Rodrigo be condemned. Corneille finds a solution to the conflict with the introduction of a patriotic theme. The king sends Rodrigo to fight the Moors and promises that if Rodrigo brings victory for the king of Spain than Jimena will forgive and will become Rodrogo’s wife. In actuality, Rodrigo entered into combat with the Moors, brought victory, married Jimena and settled in the city of Valencia which he ruled like a king himself. Through legends, his reputation overgrew. It is unlikely that Corneille’s hero in “Le Cid” was like the actual El Cid, Rogrigo Diaz de Vivar.
Venti Petrov, dancer and choreographer has been working for the making of this ballet. As a graduate from the National Choreographic Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria and an award winner of the New York International Ballet Competition, Petrov has been a principal dancer in several American Ballet companies and has been staging and performing and staging his ballet works as well as one act ballets in many ballet companies.
Petrov is a teacher and co-director of Lumière Ballet Company, founded by Svetlana Caton-Noble. With this company and with artists of other theaters, Petrov created the two-act ballet “El Cid.” For this ballet the choreographer put together a unified score with sections he selected from various operas and ballets of Jules Massenet. Petrov literally fell in love with the composer’s works and is astonished that so little has been used for dance performances. For the ouverture of El Cid, Petrov used a section from the opera “La Navaraise.” Corneille’s XVII century classic play provides an ideal libretto for a ballet. The supporting role of the Infanta was featured, but the role of Don Sancho – El Cid rival who was also in love with Jimena was not featured. The dramatic unfolding of the ballet is well done! The choreography is based on classical dance. The love pas de deux are particularly convincing, they are beautiful and are filled with original movements and lifts.
The role of Jimena was danced by Gabriela Gonzales, a sweet and feminine performer who showed clear and strong technique. The entire cast as a whole demonstrated a distinguished level of professionalism. In the midst of the women cast I am compelled to note Aina Tadokoro, a graduate of the Lumière Ballet School. She is artistic and well trained. It was a pleasure for me to watch her as I recall her dancing from previous years. Attention goes to her partner Andrew Taft, who displayed charm and vigor in the Spanish dance. Within the male cast was Tanner Schwartz (Don Gomez, Jimena’s father) indisputably an artist with much talent. Igor Konyukov a dancer with outstanding facilities is accredited with a degree in Nuclear Physics from Moscow University but presently has fully devoted himself to dance. Artistic and charismatic was Ariane Mahler in cameo roles. Floriane Zaccaria, in the role of the Infanta and Samuel Humphrey as the King of Castile were exquisite. The lead role of El Cid was danced by Venti Petrov himself. His “Cid” appeared as a magnanimous and heroic. The production was made on minimal financial resources. Costumes therefore were conditional but my only criticism goes for the makeup of the two fathers - Don Diaz and Don Gomez who both looked as young as their children.
A beautiful poster was created by Annette Fussell, who studied Medieval Spanish History in Madrid. Corneille’s famous play “Le Cid” (1637) was not only performed in dramatic theaters, but also in operatic theaters; Jules Massenet wrote an opera “Le Cid” and Hollywood released a film with Sophia Loren in the role of Jimena. But in the art of Ballet, Petrov’s is the first production that covers the story.