Richardson — The great virtue of Avant Chamber Ballet is its insistence on live music. As a bonus Saturday night at the Eisemann Center, it also provided compelling dance in the first Women's Choreography Project.
Of the five works, Amy Diane Morrow’s String Theory and Elizabeth Gillapsy’s Poema de Tres Versos made the biggest splash. Emily Hunter’s Allegra Ma Non Troppo offered charm while artistic director Katie Puder’s Memories of Change and Endless Arc were pure neo-classic.
Memories of Change opened the program on a somber note as Sarah Grace Austin and Natalie Anton in raspberry-colored dress and slippers move so close together their heads touch. Off to the side, Sinéad O’Halloran plays the cello. Even separated, their focus is on the ground. When they part, one holds the other so that her body drapes backward, her arms relaxed. The piece has a playful air, but subdued.
Set to Beethoven’s Allegro Ma Non Troppo, six girls (Anton, Austin, Bomm, Madelaine Boyce, Kaitlyn McDermitt and Kristen Pauken) have the chance to unleash their built-up energy. They all wear white shirts and black pants, but identify themselves as couples by wearing ties in red, purple or green. They form a circle facing each other, but in no time they break apart and the aggression begins. They drag each other along the floor, glower, stamp their feet and push and shove. It’s playful and reckless, and no harm is done.
To the guitar music of Agustin Barrios, Poema de Tres Versos opens with Michele Gifford holding a flashlight. The light comes on and off, sometimes with the stage in darkness. Its purpose seems to suggest mystery and longing while the movement—long, exaggerated arching turns, easy leaps, and constant changes in direction—is elegant and beautifully articulated. Gifford’s time with New York City Ballet, Fort Worth Dallas Ballet and Metropolitan Classical Ballet shows.
The Balanchine/Mejia influence shows up in just about everything Avant Chamber Ballet performs, notably in uder’s works, but particularly in Endless Arc with its sharp footwork and geometric spacing. Juliann Hyde had the grace of a nymph in Arc while Yulia Ilina was all steely assurance.
What could have been nothing but a clever gimmick—long silver strings stretching halfway the length of the stage—turned out to work magic. String Theory, set to the music of Chopin, featured Kirsten Conrad, McDermitt, Pauken and Rachel Meador in long lacy cream-colored slips pulling the strings, draping themselves over the strings, stretching them taut and dropping a few. Their bodies are sometimes as taut as the strings and their gestures often awkward, their elbows lifted up and heads down. How far you can stretch strings and what kind of sound comes forth seem to symbolize how far you can stretch relationships and time. Seldom do we see a work so fascinating.
The musicians besides O’Halloran on cello included Evan Mitchell on piano in Allegro and String Theory, Yida Hu on violin, Jesse Washmon on guitar and Francesco Di Gregorio on piano in Endless Arc.
» 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.