Brian Ruiz had a lot of challenges on Sunday night.
The lead dancer in Petrouchka, the Art Ballet Theater of Florida's production in North Miami Beach, put up with a lousy sound system. The show started 20 minutes late, then there were technical difficulties that delayed it even further. And there was a weird program that started with a couple of short dances; though compelling at times, these seemed like trailers for a blockbuster movie.
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But man, that Ruiz guy — who played the soulful puppet Petrouchka -- can dance. In fact, he and Yoshie Oshima, who played the ballerina., were so compelling in (what seemed like) a shortened version of the ballet — music by Igor Stravinsky — that you forgot about all of the problems. Ruiz moved like a puppet, he collapsed like a puppet....he even leaped like a puppet — if that's possible. He was simply amazing.
The corps de ballet was also fine. A bunch of them were kids, students of choreographer Vladimir Isaev, who performed flawlessly in extraordinary costumes. Standouts included young dancers Andrea Bennett and Estephanie Moreno.
Andrei Konkin, who played the moor, was more problematic. The impressively athletic dancer brought to life a flower in one of the opening dances, "Le Spectre de la Rose," but then fell off as the moor in Petrouchka. While his leaps and turns were breathtaking in the opener, his timing was flawed in the main ballet.
Overall, Isaev, who runs a school in North Miami, put together a damn impressive performance. The Miami City Ballet had better look out. -Chuck Strouse