Fort Worth — The word “pretty” may seem a bit vacuous for a ballet, but “pretty” fits the two works performed by the youthful Ballet Frontier of Texas Saturday night at Scott Theatre. Of the two works, however, only Moldau provided substance as well as beauty, while Bamboo Flute Concerto was simply pretty.
Guest artists Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Dallas Black Dance Theatre II filled out the program.
Artist director and choreographer Chung-Lin Tseng’s Moldau captures the rush and flow of the river Moldua that flows though the Czech Republic. The Czech composer Bedřich Smetana paid homage to his homeland in finding inspiration from the river. In unitards of muted bluish gray, dappled with bits of silver, the eight dancers weave in and out, flying in different directions, and returning in a swirl of motion. Their upper bodies are often at a tilt, the better to suggest waves. The men leap with their knees bent, jumping from one invisible river log to another with an air of triumph, while the six girls skim though space with delicate footwork. The mood is almost giddy.
Tseng’s Bamboo Flute Concerto, set to the music of Taiwanese composer Ma Shui Long, does justice to the delicate and playful sounds of the flute. The work, however, is too busy. As in Moldua, there is an emphasis on relaxed upper bodies and sharp footwork as well as dramatic leaps, with plenty of firepower coming from Dan Westfield and guest artist Kenta Taniguchi. Youth company member Andrew Coffey, slender and lithe, was just as impressive. Some of the younger girls have that appealing coltish look while the older girls (average age maybe 17) showed a great deal of finesse, with Anastacia Snyder a standout.
The one thing you can count on from Joshua L. Peugh, artistic director and chief choreographer for Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, is the element of surprise. He constantly throws you off guard. Such was the case with White Day, which premiered two years ago. Based loosely on the Korean equivalent of our Valentine’s Day, men and women alike offer presents to each other. In Part One: “Marshmallow,” eight dancers in everyday dress line up in front of the stage, stand for a minute and then slowly pull out a marshmallow from their pockets and pop them into their mouths, eating with solemnity. Soon they are stuffing marshmallows into each other’s mouths before beginning to waltz —sometimes while the men are carrying women upside down. On their own, Alex Karigan Farrior and Mr. Peugh engage in a strange exchange involving marshmallows, butting heads, and awkward limb entanglements.
Part Two: “White Day” is just as off kilter as “Marshmallow” but tender and dreamlike. It begins with women tiptoeing across stage as they drop rose petals. From the other side, men crawl slowly forward and then lie on their backs, legs up in the air. At the end, a women stands on tiptoe, her fingers and hands tracing delicate images in the sky as her body sways and flutters like a wind-tossed tendrils.
Dallas Black Dance Theatre II’s Opaque pulsated with contained ferocity, fueled in part by the driving music of Max Richter. Choreographed by artistic director Nycole Ray, a longtime star dancer with the main company, Opaque makes clever use of the triple-layered floor-length black skirts worn by men and women alike—the men bare-chested and the women in tan tops. When the eight dancers sweep across stage, their skirts billow in the wind. They gather the edges and wrap the skirts around themselves, flipping skyward, or opening them like giant bird wings. While there are subtle changes in mood, the overall impression is that of a formation of soaring birds.
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.