The Washington Ballet is closing its Baltimore season this weekend at Goucher College with a program of four dances that highlight the choreography of Choo-San Goh, Ray Barra, Niles Christe and Rex Bickmore.
Opening the program was Choo-San Goh's "Double Contrasts," a study in polarities for 12 dancers to Francis Poulenc's "Concerto in D Minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra."
"Double Contrasts" is also filled with double entendres. The movement boldly oscillates from classical to gestural motifs. The mechanical is juxtaposed with the lyrical, and the work has an enigmatic aura as Anita Pacylowski and John Goding, Beth Bartholomew and Runqiao Du attract and repel each other as well as the pool of dancers who spark about them like electrons.
"Nocturno" by Ray Barra is an intimate duet, beautifully performed by Mr. Goding and Yan Chen. Its intricate and often overwhelming lifts almost overpower the work itself, yet Ms. Chen and Mr. Goding remain admirably in control.
At first, Ms. Chen approaches the audience with her back toward it. She seems misplaced, almost unsure of where she is. When Mr. Goding enters, she gives him sidelong glances as if he were a mythic god and she a mere mortal.
But Ms. Chen's plasticity is almost superhuman. She presses her weight into her partner's torso, and he molds her body into an elongated shape, then lifts her overhead. Her centrifugal turns, her upside down positions, and her convoluted shape were performed with an easy grace. The work closes with the illusion of flight as Ms. Chen is carried offstage high above Mr. Goding's head, like a trophy.
"Quartet 2," Niles Christe's equally Gothic and futuristic quartet, was given sound performances by Lynn Cote, Francoise Thouveny, Sean Murphy and Ryan Taylor. A gray wall spattered with red forms the backdrop for this strong and dramatic work. As the dance begins, two women face the audience and the two men look into the wings. The women begin to move and often come to rest in a wide stance with their arms flung protectively over their faces. The men remain silent. It is as if the women's actions are of no consequence.
When the couples dance together, the movements are contorted. Bodies are tossed, flung over one hip, left to fall on the ground. A couple lays on the floor like a black puddle while the other wrestles.
The closing work, the premiere of "Transformation" by Rex Bickmore, is a journey of sorts among the elements. Mr. Bickmore's choreography works best when he's not so literal. This was an odd work to end the evening as there was no grande finale, only an airy, ephemeral close.