Die-hard ballet lovers may be a little taken aback by the program American Ballet Theatre offers this weekend at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Winspear Opera House, presented by TITAS.
Famous for its classical repertory, ABT is ignoring the classics altogether.
But fear not. It's possible you are in for some nice surprises. First will be a new ballet by the company's artist-in-residence, Alexei Ratmansky.
Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas, set to the keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti, premiered in 2009 at Avery Fisher Hall, a venue known for classical music and not for dance. It was an immediate success, called "spellbinding" by The New York Times and "luminous" by The Village Voice. It incorporates delicate solos, duets and groups, with only the lightest hints of a story, but fraught with meaning. When Mr. Ratmansky began the work, he had no interest in creating anything literal, saying instead that "when you have a man and a woman, it's already a story."
Deborah Jowitt of The Village Voice describes the work more poetically: "One of Ratmansky's great gifts is stitching together classical steps in ways that are full of trickery. Yet the unexpected twists or changes of direction or choices of movement never look plotted. His choreography breathes, sighs, pauses, plays a joke, and runs off laughing."
Of the original six dancers, five will be performing Friday; there is a different cast Saturday.
"It was my first work with him," recalls Herman Cornejo, who will be performing Friday, "and is a lovely and peaceful ballet. To me it is a masterpiece! With Xiomara Reyes I am part of 'a happy couple' and I will say that it is the most technically demanding solo in the ballet."
Despite the heavy emphasis on full-length ballets for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, when the company ventures into smaller venues or tours, it often brings a mixed repertory heavy on modern works. And these are no lightweights, either. The TITAS program features Paul Taylor's delightful Company B and for stark contrast, Merce Cunningham's ultra-modern Duets.
Company B is no stranger here, performed most recently in this area by Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Eisemann Center 15 months ago. Originally created for Houston Ballet in 1991, the dance and the jaunty songs of the Andrews Sisters captures the ebullient spirit of the 1940s as youth lovers lindy, jitterbug and polka. It is impossible not to succumb to the mood created by "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Tico-Tico" and "Bei mir bist du schön." But behind the gaiety, the shadow of World War II looms.
Cunningham has no use for story, or for convention music, either. Duets, created in 1980, is set to John Cage's score consisting of electronic manipulations of Irish traditional drumming music by the Merciers, father and son. Rigorous in its clarity and bold in covering space, it offers every possible movement and connection two bodies in motion can have. The effect can be mesmerizing.
The program also includes George Balanchine's sublime Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.
◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.
◊ Look for a review of Friday's performance Saturday on TheaterJones.com.