Barcelona Ballet at NY City Center

Barcelona Ballet, the company formerly known as Corella Ballet, made their return to City Center this weekend, with the ever-charming Angel Corella at the helm.

The program opened on Tuesday night with “Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1,” originally choreographed for ABT by Clark Tippet (“Variety and Virtuosity” DVD anyone?). With a corps of sixteen men and women and four principal couples, the generally classical choreography was marred only by the frequently awkward lifts.

In general, the women seemed stronger and more comfortable than their partners. In the blue pas de deux, Carmen Corella (Angel’s sister and the company’s associate artistic director) was all grandeur and elegance. Momoko Hirata stood out in the fourth “pink” pas de deux, where the speed and precision in her sprightly solo accentuated the tones of the violins. The corps de ballet had numerous opportunities to show off their lovely lines and assured technique, although they seemed cramped on the City Center stage: this is a ballet that needs more space.

“For 4” was choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon for a “Kings of Dance” program featuring Corella, an origin which did not give me great expectations. It was interesting however to see what Wheeldon, who is so frequently critiqued for his over-reliance on manipulative partnering, did with a cast of all men. The piece was primarily a chance to see four of the company’s men show off their tricks, and a bit of their personalities. The dancers tackled the choreography’s challenges admirably—Aaron Robison was particularly arresting with his space-eating jumps and long lines—but the difficulty showed from time to time in their strained port de bras and épaulement.

The final piece of the evening, “Pálpito,” was by Ángel Rojas and Carlos Rodríguez, and featured the entire company behind Mr. Corella in an attempt to blend classical ballet with Spanish flair. Unfortunately, the Spanish character of this piece was about as subtle as that of the divertissement sections of 19th century story ballets: fans! sexiness! flamenco arms! While the piece had its entertaining moments (red-soled pointe shoes!), there was never a true melding of styles, as fouettés and à la seconde turns continually popped up without any relation to the more stylized aspects of the choreography.

When Ms. Corella entered in a long, voluminous skirt of pink petals, back to the audience, we were treated for a moment to sinuous isolations of her arms and back. All too soon however, this was abandoned as she cast off her skirt in favor of a duet with her shirtless toreador partner, Dayron Vera. The choreography never allowed us to enjoy subtle moments for long, always launching directly back into pyrotechnics.

Mr. Corella was captivating as always, his infectious exuberance galvanizing the company, but it was slightly embarrassing to see him used to such silly effect. While Corella is one of those dancers I would be willing to watch do just about anything, I hope that during the company’s next visit we get to see him and his company in more substantial choreography.