Dallas — If ever a ballet cried out for a live orchestra, Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 5 is it. Unfortunately, Ballet West opened its program Friday night at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Winspear Opera House with a terrible tape: all bass thump, thump, thump, so at odds with Mozart’s exquisite music.
Ballet West is the company, led by Adam Sklute, that was featured on the two seasons of the CW's Breaking Pointe. This concert closed the 2014-'15 season for TITAS.
Divertimento offers us the world of the aristocracy with its polish and poise, of grace and gallantry and without a hint of ostentation. The ballet is a string of dances, solos, pas de deux and ensemble, bright rather than brilliant. In keeping with the period, the hues are subtle—cerulean blue tunics for the men, yellow tutus for the solo women and darker blue for the eight corps members.
The unmatched number of men (three) and women (five) lead to constant changes in partnering and formations, capitalizing on Balanchine’s genius for geometric patterns and shifts in mood. In the second movement, “Theme and Variations,” one dancer after the other comes forth to toss out delightful variations, each with its own flavor. The ballet slows down briefly in the fourth movement, and turns lively at the end. While some of the solos were executed with finesse, overall the ballet lacked that airy ease the music and choreography called for.
The other works on the program were much more suited to the company’s mettle: William Forsythe’s edgy In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, and Jodie Gates’ luscious Mercurial Landscapes.
In the Middle was just that: a ballet that had no real beginning and no end. On a dim stage, dancers emerge out of nowhere, the men in dark green, the women in green leotards and black sheer footless tights. The sounds are all clash and jangle, which along with the dimness of the stage, the no-nonsense costumes and the take-no-prisoners movement brought the ballet clearly into the present. Every variation is as taut as pulleys and drawstrings. Again and again, a dancer tilts off balance while her partner stretches the other direction as counterweight. There is constant shifting and maneuvering in this manner, and then abrupt stops as dancers scatter and regroup. The dance pulsates with pent-up energy, relentless and driven.
Mercurial Landscapes flickers through different eras, opening on a romantic note with moonlight pouring through a long, narrow opening and ending more solidly grounded in a square wall of white. Clad in hues of champagne, silver, drab purple and gold, the dancers seem to cascade in sweeping, arching turns and leaps. To accentuate the “mercurial” nature of the dance, the music swiftly switches from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to Max Richter’s industrial-style version of the same music and back again. The dance is as breezy and fresh as a spring day.
» 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.