Dallas — Ask dance patrons what they want to see in a concert, and you’ll get as many answers as there are audience members. Generally, however, the responses can be narrowed down to visually pleasing, thought-provoking, or uplifting. TITAS Presents’ season opener, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at Dallas City Performance Hall, gave a taste of all three.
Founded in 1996 by Bebe Schweppe, the company offers a place for new choreographic commissions from choreographers with a wide variety of backgrounds. With Tom Mossbrucker as artistic director and Jean-Philippe Malaty as Executive Director, the company serves two cities, yet finds its cohesion as a company of the American West.
Like many contemporary ballet companies, the word “ballet” simply serves as a base of training, rather than what one will likely see on stage. Pointe shoes and ballet slippers are no where to be found, yet the dancers still find a way to weave the classical qualities through the contemporary choreographer in a unique fashion.
This is especially apparent in the first and most balletic work of the evening, Silent Ghost, choreographed by Madrid native Alejandro Cerrudo. With a varied sound score that includes guitar, strings, piano, and subtle electronic beats, the emotional music works seamlessly with the choreography to deliver powerful images about loss and remembrance.
The shapes created on stage resemble little of classical ballet, yet the execution makes it look like the maneuvers belong in the vocabulary. The precision of their bodies then gives way to more slinking, slithering movements, made possible by the use of socks.
Torso articulations and isolations typically found in contemporary ballet seem a little more exquisite and delicate on these dancers, and a delicious fluidity—especially in the partnering segments—displays a nice versatility. Gestural phrases and a solid use of breath round out the multitude of striking elements displayed, and the men deliver a powerful masculinity even among the softer moments. Unlike many contemporary ballet pieces, Cerrudo inserts a satisfying amount of quiet moments rather than cram as much movement as possible into each breath.
Brazilian-born choreographer Fernando Melo brings us Re:play, which takes the audience on a journey of memory. Using a very simple but precisely timed lighting design by Seah Johnson, the work illuminates glimpses of an event but in a way that resembles how we remember past events. Rather than remembering something all at once, sometimes we recall a snippet, yet details can change during each recollection.
In the earlier segments of the work, movement patterns and interaction repeat, but never in quite the same fashion. Dancers disappear or others add to the vignette, and some phrases lengthen while others shorten. The middle portion of the work has a circular light fixture hover above center stage, creating a strobe effect in some areas. Only in the final moments of the dance do we see a full picture of the choreography only hinted at earlier.
Vocabulary is typical modern contemporary, with nothing too terribly innovative. Repetitious postmodern music and oddly patterned black-and-white costumes don’t impress, but the staging, timing, and relationships make it a most intriguing dance. It’s almost reminiscent of films with nonlinear narratives, such as Christopher Nolan’s Momento or Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.
Huma Rojo, choreographed by Cayetano Soto (originally from Barcelona), sets itself up as the fun one in its first moments. Lights brighten on dancers clad completely in bright red from neck to toe, as a voiceover encourages the use of confidence and passion. Using a soundtrack of peppy mid-century vocalists and bandleaders, Soto employs the theatricality seen in many up-and-coming dance companies. Flashy smiles, cocky attitudes, and exaggerated gestures permeate the Latin-inspired contemporary choreography with a jazzy flair. Amorous and animalistic at times and coy at others, the dancers obviously have a marvelous time letting go with this piece. Cohesive unison maneuvers impress, although they get a little repetitious towards the end.
Overall, the evening isn’t exactly one of mind-blowing proportions, but the company delivers a solid showing of diverse works. The next 20 years have exciting things in store.
» Photos copyright Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. To see more photos, click the slideshow icon in the floating menu at bottom left of your screen.