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BalletMet Sampler - Ad Infinitum, The Audacious One, Dracula, Bang, Bang (my baby shot me down), Sweet, !Square Off!, Play

by Lori Ortiz
September 30, 2008
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
BalletMet brought an excellent cast of dancers to the Joyce, opening their season September 30, 2008. A different choreographer, (including two BalletMet dancers,) made each of the seven works presented. With that, the program still expressed a unique company style: a natural looking balance of irreverence and strong classical technique. The mood was serious, but with a blunt, youthful energy.

The first half of the program consisted of five works. BalletMet dancer Jimmy Orrante's 2007 "Ad Infinitum," to songs by Simon & Garfunkel, was the curtain raiser. Lots of lifts and turns, followed by jagged moves to "Cecelia." All of this is fluidly combined. The last section is to a recording of "Silent Night," tracked with an evening newscast. The news is Nixon's message that the war would go on for another five years and that the student protests are the worst possible thing for the country's morale. The song and the dance give a sense of place and historical context, (the seat of anti-Vietnam war demonstrations,) for what we are seeing from this Columbus, Ohio based company.

Maybe not so coincidentally, Ohio voters were casting the first ballots as we watched Warren Adams's new "The Audacious One." He was inspired by Barak Obama's book, says the press release. Adams has likely seen "The Green Table" by Kurt Joos also. Seven dancers sit in a row of chairs down the centerline, facing the wings instead of each other. They break up the musical chairs and sit at a table with the wonderful Lynorris Evans at the head. Trading papers that fly into the air, the cast in corporate attire suggests an ineffectual government in total disarray. Heart is invested in this world premiere, and it convincingly turns catastrophe into engaging choreographic ritual. It's aptly set to a Mozart funeral mass. Evans plays the part of the young leader well. Actually, whenever Evans is onstage, he is presidential. The women incredibly break ranks and spin off in balletic pirouettes, arms up in fifth; that is, in a huff.

The Balletmet women are strong. When they are given solos or duets, they are brilliant. The men are the actors. But, for Example, Jamie Dee bowls us over as the unwitting victim Mina in a pas de deux from David Nixon's "Dracula." As the famous vamp, Orrante beautifully reveals his fondness for her and scarily bares his fangs. (He's behind her so she doesn't see.) She then turn towards him, her body melting into his neck and chest with utter devotion. Eroticism is the point. And it ends there.

The company has an extensive school open to the public. I wonder if this is the secret to both their solid stylistic identity and their financial health. Could the open doors also attract a heterogeneous cast of young talent? Female choreographers?

Hitomi Yamada and David Tlaiye perform the duet "Bang, Bang (my baby shot me down,)" BalletMet dancer Adam Hundt's sophisticatedly simple modern dance tango to a Nancy Sinatra recording. Brief and beautifully performed, it has Yamada in the air flying around Tlaiye, for the most part. The Mexican-born Tlaiye is there for her. In the end, of course, she falls to the floor.

"Sweet" is an aubade by David Shimotakahara to Bobby McFarren's music. Olivia Clark dances fluidly and Jackson Sarver partners serviceably. The song-length duet engages with its varying tempo. It recalls Roethke's poem "The Waking," and its incantation, "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. / I learn by going where I have to go."

"Play" has been seen in New York, but on its return, its retro aesthetic just feels dated and overly long. The group of twenty-two often play drones, slavish to the mechanical, eponymous Moby music. They reference pastimes that are supposedly gender specific, like gossiping and shopping for the women and working hard for the men. 70s freestyle moves, proto-hip-hop rigor mortis and robotic walks are part of the playscape. Best is a longish passage of fight choreography with opponents weaving snaking arms, their upper bodies all the while in full rotation. The choreographer is the respected Stanton Welch and it is a repertory favorite.

I elect the joyful new "!Square Off!" by Darrell Grand Moultrie. This new dance comes just before intermission. The music is by Karl Jenkins and Kenji Bunch. It has various style quotes, including a Western theme. Walks with tiny steps, and crab crawls create square floor patterns. There are playful costume changes and a line dance.

With precise timing, Evans dives in from the wings, over Samantha Lewis. "!Square Off!" defies reason, on first viewing, and delightfully holds together with sheer fun. Annie Mallonee exemplifies the BalletMet signature confidence in her beginning introduction and her solo end. The company mix of insouciance and classical reverence is best brought out here.
'The Audacious One'

"The Audacious One"

Photo © & courtesy of Sheila Hunt


'Play'

"Play"

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine

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