Fort Worth — Elegance, strength, and power. These are just a few words to describe the Texas Ballet Theater’s latest performance at Bass Performance Hall. Under the artistic direction of Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., the evening featured the dynamic Mozart Requiem and the world premiere of Martinu Pieces. In addition to the technically beautiful movement of the company, the excitement of the evening was heightened by the accompaniment of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the University of Texas at Arlington A Cappella Choir. The live musical performance only intensified an already compelling evening.
Consisting of only two works, the performance managed to reach varied extremes both emotionally and choreographically. Opening with Martinu Pieces, Stevenson noted in program that he wanted to present three independent movements based on the work of Bohuslav Martinu. Thus, each section truly did feel like three separate pieces; only bound together by a single composer.
The first movement, “Dance Classique,” began with 12 dancers in bold, red costumes. Six women partnered with six men twirled in and out of each other’s arms with a fierceness that propelled the entire section. Their energy levels never waned; instead the dancers maintained a steady, if not increasing level of intensity. For the most part, each couple executed their partner work with precision—only dropping out of unison with the occasional timing misstep. Themes of reversing and switching were prominent throughout the movement as dancers constantly changed partners and pivoted backwards.
The triumphant opening was followed by “Harvey”— a duet recognizing those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Moving from one extreme to the next, “Harvey” pushed aside the bold tone of the first section to embrace a softer, more reverent atmosphere. Carolyn Judson and Alexander Kotelenets entered the stage in muted gray costumes, swaying with the minor key of the musical score. Kotelenets led Judson with force and aggression as she bounced between spinning into his arms and reaching away form him. Their back and forth relationship matched their embodiment of desperation, loss, and timid hope.
“Dance Gathering,” on the other hand, returned to the spirited mood from the first section as the entire TBT company took the stage. Once again divided into couples, the dancers referenced the partnering of the beginning movement. In one moment, twelve women clumped together with big, rounded arms and sharp, angled legs. The contrast in their qualities echoed the dissonant sounds from the orchestra pit. Here, more choreographic diversity was born in the broken wrists of the dancers, the loosening of their hips, and fluttering, flicking arm gestures.
For the second half of the evening, the curtain rose to reveal 10 men in camouflage pants, gray tanks, and dog tags standing with arms stretched upwards. This striking visual set the scene for an epic exploration of war, loss, and heroism. Mozart Requiem is unique in its all-male cast and lengthy running time. Stevenson uses each section of Mozart’s masterpiece to highlight a small group, duet, or solo—each specific to narrative of the individual dancers. The massive leaps and daring falls of the performers were enhanced by the hauntingly beautiful accompaniment of the University of Texas at Arlington A Cappella Choir on either side of the auditorium. Motifs of tense fists in the air, diving to the floor, and prayer hands emitted a solemn tone. The heaviness of the piece was also manifested in the pushing, pulling, fighting motions of the duets. Due to the repetitive nature of the music, at times, the repetition of motifs became redundant. Feelings of chaos emerged as groups began to intertwine—dancers would jump in and out of sections, charge across the stage, and disappear seamlessly.
The highlight of the piece was Andre Silva’s solo “Sanctus.” His body appeared to melt together with the voices of the choir, creating a smooth, gooey partnership. His performance stood out amongst the rest of the solos because of his fluidity. One could see the energy flowing from his fingertips to his toes in his jumps and feel his control and balance as he completed six turns without a wobble. I was fascinated by the paradox of Silva’s graceful wildness as he undulated through his center while accenting the sharpness in his arms.
Two jarringly distinct pieces gave audience members a taste of just about every emotion over the course of the night. While the highly entertaining debut of Martinu Pieces proved to be engaging, Mozart Requiem shined as the more intriguing piece from TBT.