Dallas — For a ballet company, the Vancouver-based Ballet BC has little use for tutus, romance, bright lights or color. Perhaps that is understandable when you realize that all three works—created by women—had their aesthetic shaped by the hard-edged works of William Forsythe (Ballet Frankfurt) and the quirky taste of Ohad Naharin (Batsheva Dance Company).
As the last work on TITAS Presents' 2016-2017 season, and performed June 10 at the Winspear Opera House, Ballet BC was by turns gritty, haunting and strange, with the haunting aspect qualifying it as a minor masterpiece.
Emily Molnar’s 16 + a room, established Forsythe’s emphasis on difficult, off-kilter pairing, explosive leaps and runs that end with slides. Add industrial music that sometimes suggests a helicopter hovering overhead, simple black outfits, and a clever play of lights—mostly dark, with down-spots that isolate dancers, and the Forsythe influence is clear. Ms. Molnar, however, puts more emphasis on movement low to the ground, with quick entrances and exits, sudden reversals—all of it suggesting the frenzy of ice hockey without a goalie.
Every once in a while a dancer crosses the stage holding a sign that says “this is the beginning” or “this is not the end.” Perhaps meant to be ironic, the latter sign appears as the curtain descends. The joke fizzled.
Much calmer in mood was Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, set to the stirring music of two Brahms cello sonatas. (Also a Ballet Frankfurt alum, her name may be familiar to the TITAS audience, as she has created works for Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, [bjm dance], Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and recently, Kidd Privot.)
Inspired by Mark Strand’s poem about death, “Lines for Winter,” Solo Echo benefits from the emotional and evocative cello sonatas, but the movement too has its own power. Often dancers are linked together, moving with serpentine smoothness, or when they break apart and realign, like seals undulating, sliding and rebounding.
The stage is just as dark as it was in 16 + a room, but specks of light glitter from the rafters, and toward the end, snow falls.
The stage is equally dim in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Bill, growing eerie at the end. Bill is a strange mix of robot-puppet-alien and Barbie’s Ken. Ori Lichtik’s original music suggests at times a carnival atmosphere and sometimes a disco in full swing. The dancers however move like zombies, speeding up at warp speed as they walk in place. Their movement is stretched out and supple, with very deep pliés and undulating torsos.
Adding to the sense on sameness, they wear flesh-colored body suits with gray powder over their faces. The robotic element becomes frenetic toward the end, when the muscle-man figure in a sickening yellow light, contorts and twists mindlessly, while behind everyone else simply twists.
» 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