Washington Ballet opens on note of excellence

October 11, 1990|By J. L. Conklin

The Washington Ballet opened its Baltimore season last night at Goucher College with a program that exemplifies founder-artistic director Mary Day's quest for excellence.

Not only are her dancers first-rate, but the dances Ms. Day and her engaging company present are equally top-notch. With a lineup of works choreographed by George Balanchine, John Cranko and the company's late great choreographer, Choo-San Goh, the program couldn't miss.This company can capture the imagination of the most jaded dance fan.

Opening the evening was Mr. Balanchine's "Donizetti Variations" music from the composer's opera, "Don Sebastian." This highly stylized and romantically festive dance featured new company member Yen Chen.

Ms. Chen is a winsome performer, her back is free and open, and her footwork delicate. Her phrasing pleasantly involves her whole body, yet dramatically she's not as forceful as she could be. I'm sure experience will improve her theatrical abilities.

"Donizetti Variations" has Mr. Balanchine's superb logical framework. The patterns of the dance, the duets, trios and quartets, blend as if the work were one constant vision of Italianate pastels rather than a jigsaw of smaller dances.

"Momentum" and "Fives," the two works choreographed by Choo-San Goh, served to remind of the choreographer's genius. "Momentum" had brilliant performances by company newcomer Terace Jones and returning member Beth Bartholomew. Equally impressive were Francoise Thouveny and Christopher Doyle.

"Momentum" explores balance, weight and motion, and the dancers' crisp and bright actions echo the process of balance. Arms outstretched, they lunged or broke the straight lines of their torsos with a brief contraction. When the mood shifted from hectic to contemplative, one saw the short dramas embedded in the flow.

John Cranko's "Holberg Suite," a duet nicely danced by Lynn Cote and the company's permanent guest artist, Kevin McKenzie, was in three sections. The first was a direct and classical exposition that played with the themes expounded in Edvard Grieg's music and gave us the opportunity to appreciate Mr. McKenzie's generous musical acumen.

Closing the evening was "Fives." Juxtaposed between pockets of silence and the roar of Ernest Bloch's music, the company stuns us with percussive movements.

The Washington Ballet will perform at Goucher's Kraushaar Auditorium again at 8 o'clock tonight.

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