Washington Ballet puts Dutch choreography on the map


February 15, 1993|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

The Washington Ballet presented a glorious program of dancing Saturday evening at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium. In a program dedicated to Dutch choreography with works by Ton Simons, Toer van Schayk, Nils Christe and Choo San Goh, the company displayed performances that were decidedly upbeat, crisp and exciting.

Opening the evening was Choo San Goh's "Momentum" to Sergei Prokofiev's wild and woolly Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Flat. While the late choreographer was not Dutch, he began his career at the Dutch National Ballet. Ten years ago, under Choo San Goh's artistic direction, the dance became part of the Washington Ballet's repertory, but "Momentum" is timeless and looks as if it was choreographed yesterday.

"Momentum" relies on movement contrasts and level changes. The work is both lush and Spartan: Full-blown leaps and leg extensions, bodies that spiral or quickly spin highlight the music's drama. Dancers Anita Pacylowski, Francoise Thouveny, Sean Murphy and Christopher Doyle were flawless.

Mr. Simons' quirky work, "Private Debates/Public Exhibition," was given wonderful performances by Lynn Cote, Julie Miles, Carmen Rosario,Zsolt Haraszti and Ryan Taylor. Erratic movements and curious posturing form the backbone for Mr. Simons' eclectic and clever choreography. Our focus is drawn to a forearm, a calf, the arch of a back, and the dancers are transformed into a line of marionettes.

Using the score that Debussy created for Nijinsky's dance "Jeux," choreographer Toer van Schayk incorporated a few of the original motifs into his dance of the same title. Finely performed, this fragmented psychological journey was concerned with all kinds of games that people play.

Mr. Christe's powerful work, "Before Nightfall," closed the program. Set to music by Bohuslav Martinu, the dance is full of frenetic energy and belongs to the toeshoes-as-stiletto school of choreography. In front of a black scrim whitewashed with graffiti-like markings, the images that the dancers portray are violent, sadistic, oppressive and compelling.

"Before Nightfall" has all the emotional impact of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," and often the dancers' body language seemed to mimic the painting. Three sets of explosive duets explore the darker side of relationships, and when Mr. Doyle used Ms. Thouveny's neck to spin her around, the effect was eloquently chilling. Oddly enough, the audience's response to this program was less than the company deserved.

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