The Jas Art Ballet Company was formed in 2013 by the husband and wife team Sabrina Brazzo and Andrea Volpintesta, both formerly with the ballet company at La Scala (she a principal dancer). In six years, its reach has grown, and it now has a junior wing of promising young dancers from ages 16 to 18 which is coached at its base in the Centre for Choreographic Study, a large dancing school housed in Milan's Teatro Carcano.
The company's Opera Danza Festival, presented at Teatro Carcano, was a series of unrelated dance pieces, arias and music in a sort of cabaret format. It started off promisingly featuring dance set to music from operas, with three singers aided and abetted by the excellent Stefano Salvatori on the piano who managed to reinterpret some of the overtures and introductions in surprising ways to give the whole a cohesive structure. However, the formula changed as non-operatic pieces crept in, and it stopped being opera and dance together, but a mishmash of styles and music, with an Astor Piazzolla tango (on pointe) thrown into the mix and a violinist playing a Bach gigue. Odd.
Jas Art Ballet's ace is Sabrina Brazzo who, although she's hit her half-century, is still in remarkable shape. Francesco Ventriglia created the evening's closing piece around her using melodies from Madame Butterfly. Complete with kimono and a female corps with fans and rose petals, it was simply put together with elegance and without pretension. Unfortunately, also in the evening's package came a squirm-inducing piece by Giorgio Azzone to the Queen of the Night's aria with a soprano trying to get through all those high notes (elsewhere, she sang well) while Azzone himself, in bad drag and mouthing the words, did some “anything you can do I can do better” clownery. For the life of me, I couldn't make out what was funny. Yet the same choreographer was responsible for one of the evening's most satisfying pieces, a contemporary dance work called Whispering Scarlatti danced by Viola Vicini and Kevin Regonesi, as well as the nicely judged Summer Reloaded set to Vivaldi for the young Jas Art Ballet Junior dancers.
The choreography for Brazzo and Volpintesta was by Massimiliano Volpini, a former La Scala dancer whose choreography is a guarantee. Their TangOnPoint saw a suitably macho and smouldering Volpintesta twist the supple Brazzo into passionate pictures, and they also danced the pleasing opening piece which was set to the La traviata prelude. Another Volpini creation was the highly demanding Rossini x 4 to the Barber of Seville overture with Viola Vicini, Odette Marucci, Douglas Zambrano and Salvatore De Simone.
Brazzo was also winning, with the personable Mario Genovese, in an extract from the ballet George Sand by Sabrina Massignani (the only female choreographer represented) which uses Massenet's Élégie for this ardent pas de deux (the music MacMillan chose for the first encounter pas de deux in his Manon).
The scenery was gracefully conjured up from projections by Salvo Manganaro, and many of the dancers are very talented. If it were me, I'd trim away some of the lazy programming – I imagine that several pieces are taken from the company repertoire, so easy to remount – cut out all the non-operatic music and slapstick ‘comedy', then there would remain a collection of opera and dance excerpts ideal for those Italian open-air summer gala evenings.
Jas Art Ballet Company - Opera Danza Festival
Jas Art Ballet's ace is Sabrina Brazzo, and the company dancers are strong, but the evening was less than the sum of its parts and some judicial reprogramming could lift the level greatly.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.