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BalletMet Columbus

By Susan Yung

BalletMet Columbus
The Joyce Theater, NYC
September 30–October 5, 2008
Reviewed by Susan Yung

 

Photo by Sheila Hunt.

Darrell Grand Moultrie's

Square Off with dancers

Lynorris Evans and

Bethany Manley


BalletMet’s repertory is peppered with something largely foreign to New York-based choreographers: non-ironic narrative work. A prime example is the Columbus, Ohio-based company’s recent premiere, The Audacious One, based on Barack Obama and choreographed by Warren Adams. You might expect some kind of humorous twist or partisan jabs, but it’s largely  dramatization. It takes a while for the protagonist to emerge from a crowd of grandstanders, but when he does, it’s like the second coming. Abetted by Mozart’s lofty music, he comes off as a prophet, a Pied Piper figure followed fanatically by supporters, a point seized upon by his critics. Lynorris Evans danced Obama with conviction. The set—chairs and tables—evoked Jooss’ Green Table, and blue and red sheafs served as chromatic and symbolic punchlines.


The other earnest narrative, by British choreographer David Nixon, was a Dracula – Act II pas de deux, which could be an excerpt from a Broadway show. That would explain the lugubrious melodrama and the sentimental Arvo Pärt music, which unfortunately has been subsumed into the canon of cliché (although in fairness, this dance is from 1999). Jimmy Orrante slides Jamie Dee off her bed, conveying her horizontally on his knees and hands to create a convincing floating effect. Increasingly spellbound, she succumbs to his bite, but not before he unbuttoned her long frock slowly, building the anticipation.


The balance of the program featured work that showed off the capable dancers and roster of choreographers, rather than telling stories. Orrante choreographed Ad Infinitum, set to music by Simon & Garfunkel. It varied by song, at times lyrical and fluid or percussive and athletic. Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), a duet by Adam Hundt to Nancy Sinatra, featured Hitomi Yamada and David Tlaiye performing small but meaningful gestures in a detailed lyrical modern style. David Shimotakahara’s Sweet, done by Olivia Clark and Jackson Sarver, played off of Bobby McFerrin’s creamy vocals with bold interlocking phrases.


Square Off!, choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie, showed the company’s strong women in a good light. In sporty halter tops and trunks (and later, added tutus), in contrast to the blouses/pants the men wore, the movement shifted between control and abandon. Episodes of sprightly partnering were set to fiddle music and what sounded like square dance tunes with a Japanese flavor (by Karl Jenkins and Kenji Bunch). Completing the program was Stanton Welch’s Play, a jukebox dance set to Moby tunes in a hard-edged, urban atmosphere. Ever cognizant of the composer’s relentless beats, the dancers underscored the rhythm in cross-stage phrases. They struck different gestures, or folded over, thrashing their torsos to the rhythms. With its  jazzy vocabulary and self-consciously hip aspirations, this dance, like the Dracula pas-de-deux, would not look out of place on Broadway.