The New York Baroque Dance Company made a compelling case for the One Percent Sunday night at Southern Methodist University's Caruth Auditorium. That is, for the One Percent that emanates wit, grace and charm, that can dance a jig, minuet and chaconne, that wears a frocked waistcoat that flares out with every turn and makes a bow that speaks volumes.
Yes, that One Percent: the English and French aristocracy of the early 18th century. (To be accurate, the aristocrats were probably more like a tenth of one percent.)
The program, called "Baroque Music and Dance in London and Versailles,"gave a clear view of the distinctive differences between the English and French. In short, the English are more subdued and formal, the French lay out the charm.
The English got the first shot. With The Dallas Bach Society stationed at one side of the long, shallow stage, Catherine Turocy, artistic director of The New York Baroque Dance Company escorted a bevy of young girls from the other side of the stage to dance a minuet. In simple white tulle, gold sashes and flowered headdresses, they traced careful patterns with tentative steps, smiling all the while.
Then it was time for the professional company to perform a minuet. In curled wigs and gorgeous outfits of champagne hues—long waistcoat and wide cuffs for the men, fitted bodice and skirts looped up at each side for the women—they made tiny hops with curlicued arm gestures as they wove amongst each other.
In The Diana, Meggi Sweeney Smith and Olsi Gjeci glance at each other as they make jaunty little hops and abrupt turns, every once in a while touching gloved hands. Le Carillon d’Oxfort had a playful feel: three couples face each other in two rows, and then change places, in neat patterns.
Dance was interspersed with music, notably Johann Christian Bach’s Quintet in D Major for Flute, Oboe, Violin, Cello and Harpsichord, Opus 22 No. 1, a light and airy piece.
The three solos that followed had a dramatic flare, with Entrée d’Apollon giving the masked Junichi Fukuda a chance to make sudden leaps, swirl about and open his arms with a flourish. In Chaconne de Phaëton, Ms. Smith darts back and forth in circles, ever looking and beckoning for an invisible object. In Gigue, Carly Fox playfully hides her eyes with a mask trimmed with feathers, only to turn her face and lift the mask away to show a flirtatious smile.
We know that the French did not invent charm, but they may as well have. The second half of the show brought it to full flower, whether it was the delightful use of tambourine, castanets and sticks in Les Fêtes de Ramire or the cunning interplay of all seven dancers in Les Folies d’Espagne.
The men looked dashing as they made sudden spins and big leaps, while the women made use of fans and castanets. Each took the stage just long enough to give a glimpse of their individuality, with Ms. Turocy pensive and yet formidable as she tilted sideways, ornate hand gestures signaling for attention, or with Ms. Smith slyly dropping her silk handkerchief, or with Glenda Norcross holding her fan to her cheek with such subdued grace that you could watch her forever.
◊ 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.