Dudamel and Stars of Ballet at the Hollywood Bowl Review - Stars under the Stars

It's a balmy, Tuesday night in July.  We're at the Hollywood Bowl early, picnicking in our seats and enjoying the cooling of the air, the mountain views and the extraordinarily gifted dancers who are warming up on stage. 



We are here to see "Dudamel and Stars of Ballet" and as far as I'm concerned, that makes for a blissfully perfect night right there.  After all, what can best the setting, the LA Philharmonic being directed by Gustavo Dudamel and, to top it all off, seeing Misty Copeland, Marcelo Gomes, Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin dancing iconic pieces from some of the most famous and beloved ballets in history?!?!  Nothing!  At least for me.

As the seats fill up, the dancers leave the stage and eventually the orchestra members take their seats on stage.  Watching the clock, we await the 8 o'clock hour when the show is scheduled to begin.  The crowd cheers when Gustavo Dudamel enters from stage right to thunderous applause and takes his place on the podium.  The energy in the amphitheater is palpable as the orchestra plays the National Anthem and we all come to our feet.  We are so ready for the concert to start!



The LA Phil is magnificent to hear regardless, but having Dudamel conduct is a special treat.  His energy, his expression, his hair, make the entire experience that much more exciting and uplifting.  The program begins with familiar pieces from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty.  The music fills the Bowl and we are all transported to our own experiences or imaginings of Sleeping Beauty even though there are no dancers, as yet, to watch.  Next, we are treated to excerpts from Tchaikovsky's first ballet, the iconic Swan Lake.  After hearing a piece by the orchestra that we are all deeply familiar with, the next piece begins and Marcelo Gomes appears on stage.  Bare-chested with feathered "pantaloons", Gomes performs a less known variation from Matthew Bourne's Swan LakeGomes strikes an imposing and striking figure, filling the stage with his movements.  The piece was over in the blink of an eye, leaving us wanting more.

Another heart-stopping piece by the orchestra and out comes Misty Copeland to perform the White Swan solo.  The crowd goes wild, calling her name, screaming and hollering and whistling.  Misty Copeland has become quite the "rock star" of ballet here in America, and there is no shortage of love and admiration pouring out from her adoring fans.



And suddenly it is intermission.  I am heartbroken!  It feels like the evening has just barely begun and we’re already at intermission!  So often, the first half of a performance proves longer than the second and I worry that it will all feel too short and too little to be truly satisfying.  And yet . . .

The second half begins with the third ballet, Giselle.  Again, we are delighted by the LA Phil's rendition of selections from Adam's beautiful ballet before the dancers grace the stage.  When they do, it is as if the world stops.  Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin perform the Grand Pas de deux and Variations, thrilling the audience to no end.  The extraordinary technique of this pair cannot be denied.  Osipova floats off the stage in a series of jumps that are so light and look so impossibly easy, it’s breath-taking.  Having a daughter that is studying ballet in the Vaganova style, I have a completely new understanding of the extraordinary difficulty of this art form, so to see it look so effortless when I know that it is absolutely NOT, is simply mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. 



And then Polunin takes the stage and is equally mind-blowing!  The leaps into the air, the spins and turns always landed with exquisite precision and, again, a series of jumps that seems to go on forever, yet he makes look far too easy to be believed. 



Any worries of the evening being less than satisfying are long gone.  The pair dance for at least 10 minutes together and the audience is now on fire and cheering for more!



At this point, Dudamel takes the microphone and makes some comments to the audience that make us laugh and brings out his personality.  He made me feel his humility and passion for the music, his respect and wonder for the dancers' skill and simply a sweetness that made me want to hug him.



The final ballet visited is Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.  Here we are given two pieces by the orchestra alone, before Misty Copeland and Marcelo Gomes dance the Pas de Deux, choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan.  As the balcony scene, Gomes appears on the short wall separating the Pool Circle of the Bowl from the Garden Boxes, while Copeland appears on the stage itself.  Gomes makes his way along the wall and onto the opposite side of the stage where the pair perform the piece with deep emotion and beautiful, stirring dance.  The story of Romeo and Juliet was so clear and the relationship between the two so expressive - it is a beautifully visceral experience of the tragic love story.



With one final piece by Dudamel and the LA Phil, the evening comes to a close with the dancers' multiple curtain calls and a standing ovation from the appreciative audience. 



It was an extraordinary evening of music and dance that will stay with me for a very, very long time.

Gustavo Dudamel photography by Lawrence K. Ho

All other photography by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

More about Misty Copland in Splash Magazine Worldwide



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