If Andy Warhol could turn a can of soup into a twentieth-century icon, there's no telling what he's capable of doing for ballet, even fourteen years after his death. Invoking both the name and work of the silver-haired pop artist, Italy's Balletto Teatro di Torino gives classical ballet a swift, albeit studiedly hip, kick in the derrière with its new piece to be performed next Friday at the International Ballet Festival of Miami.
Choreographed by principal dancer Matteo Levaggi, Gee, Andy! takes viewers on what the press release describes as "a trip through the symbols and the spirits that characterized the years of Andy Warhol's artistic glory." It's a quirky journey in which "the dancers represent on one side Warhol's forces, personalities, and spirits; on the other the objects of his desire." In this Warholian odyssey, heavily made-up male dancers sport shiny latex pants and sneakers, and men and women in fuchsia-and-lime Technicolor tutus leap through the air, all topless. The music is of the electronic variety, and projected images include a video cameo by Milena Vukotic, who appeared in the 1974 film Andy Warhol's Dracula(a.k.a. Blood for Dracula).
Whether an homage to the work of a man who referred to himself as "deeply superficial" will be deeply satisfying or simply "affected posing" -- the charge a Sun-Sentinelcritic leveled at this same company's genderbending take on Salome at last year's festival -- remains to be seen. But connecting Warhol with a dance tradition that obsesses over the human form and often is concerned with style over substance is not such a stretch. According to his archivist, Warhol loved the "glamour and romance" of dance, and the Andy Warhol Museum presented the evidence in its 1999 "Watching from the Wings: Warhol and Dance" exhibition, which included the artist's early paintings, drawings of New York City Ballet dancers, dance diagrams, and even programs from shows he had attended.
While Gee, Andy! is not representative of the rest of the International Ballet Festival of Miami's more classical fare, the festival's Cuban-born director Pedro Pablo Peña prides himself on uniting dancers from all over the United States, South and Central America, Europe, and beyond. While the quantity of companies is indisputable, reviews as to the quality of the offerings have been mixed in past years. But Peña counters that his desire is to expose Miamians to the great stars of the ballet world. In addition to Gee, Andy!, the fest hosts full-length contemporary ballet from Mexico's 30-member Compañia Nacional de Danza, as well as a marathon of classical excerpts, mainly pas de deux, danced by principals from as many as twenty international troupes, including the Vienna State Opera Ballet, Chile's Ballet de Santiago, Italy's La Scala Ballet, plus local groups, such as Momentum Dance Company, Brazarte, and Peña's own Miami Hispanic Ballet. But transforming ballet into a work of pop art may be easier than pulling off a weeklong festival, now in its sixth year. "I don't receive great support yet," sighs Peña.