Dallas — When Paloma Herrera got her first pair of pointe shoes, she slept with them on.
Figuratively she has never taken them off, if we were to gauge by her performance in Rubies Friday night at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House. Partnered by Gonzalo Garcia, the two pranced, rocked, stalked and rotated like faceted jewels with Ms. Herrera giving Balanchine’s ballet a particular edge.
Although Rubies was not a surprising choice for the annual Command Performance La Fête du Ballet, others were. There were several unfamiliar ballets as well as two new works commissioned by TITAS. Where TITAS did not stray was digging out that old crowd-pleaser, David Parsons’ Caught. Strobe lighting catches Miguel Quinones in midair. He seems never to touch the ground. Also standard was Moses Pendleton’s Millennium Skiva where two skiers do remarkable things with bodies that ripple and collapse and bound back up, their silvery blue ski outfits shimmering in a bath of silver light.
The program opened with a lyrical pas de deux from Act III of La Bayadère, where in an opium dream the noble warrior Solor (Eris Nezha) reunites with the temple Bayadère Nikiya (Ashley Ellis). Solor skirts the stage searching for Nikiya, and once she appears they dance a tender pas de deux, ending with a rapturous Nikiya poised in arabesque with head slung back as Solor kneels behind her with one knee bent. They were a solid couple, if somewhat restrained.
Principal dancers with Boston Ballet, they fared better in the pas de deux from The Nutcracker, where Ms. Ellis displayed a winning control along with the delicacy required of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Instead of the usual showy Act III of Swan Lake where the Black Swan Odile beguiles the Prince, this time we had the lyrical Act II where the White Swan Odette surrenders her trust to the Prince. Houston Ballet’s Connor Walsh made a particularly noble king and Sara Webb a yielding if not tremulous Swan.
Mr. Walsh was even more impressive (and had far more to do) in Stanton Welch’s Sons de l’âme pas de deux (Sounds of the Soul). Bare-chested, he and his partner Lauren Strongin wear identical pale mauve pants as though to establish their equality. She enters bourreeing in what seems like one long stride to meet him, and once engaged, they intertwine in complex ways, until he lowers her to the ground and she sleep. A romantic affair set to several Chopin piano pieces, it premiered in Paris last November.
Commissioning new works is always risky, and Bruce Wood’s Hide Me Angel and Jessica Lang’s Lyric Suite were well worth the risk.
As we have come to expect from Mr. Wood, his Hide Me Angel starts slow and gradually builds with emotional power, jolting you at the end. It opens with Albert Drake and Mykal Stromile slumped over like mushrooms. Once up, they swirl around in the air, their long skirts billowing, only to return to their original, curled-in position.
What made Lyric Suite—set to several works of Edvard Greig and featuring American Ballet Theatre star Julie Kent and Clifton Brown from Jessica Lang Dance—so arresting was its complex interplay, where the two often go their separate ways only to reunite in one triumphant scene as he carries her aloft out of sight.
If there were no fireworks this time à la Damian Woetzel doing speedy turns or Angel Corella exploding through the air, their loss was compensated by fresh, innovative works.
» 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.
» Photos copyright Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. Click the slideshow icon in the floating menu at the bottom left of your screen to see more photos.