When a ballet company disappears, what are the dancers to do?
For the brave, the answer is: start a new company.
And that is exactly how Avant Chamber Ballet rose like the phoenix from the ashes of Metropolitan Classical Ballet. Of the eight dancers, six were members of the Arlington-based company. Shades of the old company certainly surfaced, with the neo-classic, Balanchine influence of its former co-artistic director Paul Mejia more than evident. The trace of its Russian heritage—the influence of former Bolshoi star and later co-artistic director Alexander Vetrov—was faint as a whiff of air.
Like its forebears, Avant Chamber Ballet believes in the value of live music — rather daring for a tiny company with a minuscule budget. And perhaps the budget has something to do with the limited repertory: all four works on the program Saturday at LifeStage Theatre were those created by its artistic director Katie Puder with some help from company member Yulia Ilina. Called "European Crossing: Where Dance and Music Intersect," the works varied in range from spare and modern to scrupulously clean and sunny.
The spare was Prelude, set to Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, and played with appropriate restraint by pianist Konstantyn Travinsky. In simple black tights and red top, the tall, lanky Ilina moves stork-like on black slippers, emphasizing angles and an upright bearing. Her face has the look of intense concentration, and not until the end does she relax, letting her arms and head drop to create the illusion of a body coming apart. (I arrived a bit late and missed the first work, Francaix Marelle.)
Colloquy, set to Gyorgy Ligeti's Six Bagatelles, featured the blonde Madelaine Boyce and the equally blonde Puder dressed identically in black tights, dark blue tops of sheer, transparent material, and pink pointe shoes. Their dance represented the scrupulously clean, befitting the music, which varied from brisk and sprightly to mournful, breaking up into smaller elements and then pauses. Despite the sense of isolation, there was a kind of dialogue between the two. Sometimes they faced off, then they moved like mirror images with arms and legs extended in opposite directions. Technically, they were close to flawless, but so restrained that not much in the way of personality emerged.
Sara Scurry on bassoon, Dan Goldman on clarinet, Sonia Candelaria on flute, David Cooper on French horn and Kelli Short on oboe offered an energetic but very sharp picture of Six Bagatelles.
The program ended on a happy note with Igor Stravinsky's Italian Suite, where six dancers in pale blue bodices and tiny skirts zipped back and forth in waves or disappeared to make way for solos. While the mood was festive, the dancing was again so contained and precise that whatever recklessness the music suggested vanished. Even so, they looked lovely, with Juliann Hyde a standout, evoking just a hint of Baroque charm. You could transport her to the New York Baroque Dance Company and she would sally forth on delicate feet.
The performance will repeat Oct. 25 at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.
◊ 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.