‘An American Tango’

State Street Ballet Shines in Evening-Length Work

The big stage at the Granada made an ideal platform for this bold take on the lives of two great American dancers, Frank and Yolanda Veloz. Using a pair of large folding screens as surfaces on which to project images and places for dancers to enter from while already onstage, the production moved rapidly through a wide variety of locations, following Veloz and Yolanda from their humble origins in the dance halls of New York City to the height of their fame on stage at the Hollywood Bowl. Two aspects of this approach stood out. One was the energy and interest generated by the ensemble. Combining traditional ballet technique with steps borrowed from such popular dances of the day as the Charleston, the company thrilled the audience with expert partnering and made us all laugh with some very clever character sequences. At the core of the show, there was the extraordinary work of dancers Leila Drake and Jack Stewart in the leading roles. Stewart’s calm, elegant presence never faltered, and Drake was magical in re-creating Yolanda’s signature move, a spin that begins with flying revolutions and ends with her landing in a full lunge. When the two danced behind a scrim showing the original pair dancing on film, the audience sent up a gasp of excitement in recognition of how closely they matched their models, both in form and spirit.

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